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William  Lloyd  Garrison,  the  famous  abolitionist, 
was  the  conscience  of  his  age.  A  tenacious, 
idealistic  young  man  of  twenty-six  when  he 
began  the  publication  of  The  Liberator,  he 
served  warning  that  his  moral  indictment  of 
slavery  would  be  uncompromising:  "I  am  in 
earnest  —  I  will  not  equivocate  —  I  will  not 
excuse  —  I  will  not  retreat  a  single  inch  — 
AND  i  WILL  BE  HEARD."  Garrison  was  as  good 
as  his  word.  He,  more  than  any  other  American 
of  his  time,  was  responsible  for  the  atmosphere 
of  moral  absolutism  which  led  to  the  Civil  War 
and  the  emancipation  of  the  slaves. 

Taking  the  turbulent  career  of  the  abolitionist 
as  his  focal  point,  the  author  brilliantly  evokes 
the  social,  political  and  religious  forces  which 
made  the  ante-bellum  period  one  of  the  most 
fascinating  in  American  history.  In  the  thirty 
years  before  the  Civil  War,  Americans  were 
possessed  by  a  dramatic  certainty  that  the  New 
World  could  produce  a  new  race  of  men  strong 
in  their  natural  goodness  and  their  commitment 
to  total  freedom.  All  Americans  shared  in  the 
perfectionist  dream  in  some  way,  for  perfec- 
tionism meant  freedom  —  freedom  from  the 
past  and  the  burdens  of  history,  freedom  from 
institutions  and  power,  freedom  from  sin  and 
guilt.  Perfectionism  verified  the  American  belief 
in  the  second  chance. 

Through  this  period  moved  the  controversial 

figure  of  William  Lloyd  Garrison,  a  man  both 

revered  and  vilified.  An  ascetic,  moralistic.,  and 

(Continued  on  second  flap) 


0  DD01 


The  Liberator 

WILLIAM  LLOYD   GARRISON 
A  Biography 


by  John  L*  Thomas 


With 


Little,  Brown  and  Company  *    Boston  •  Toronto 


COPYRIGHT  ©    1963   BY  JOHN  L.  THOMAS 

AIX  RIGHTS  RESERVED*  NO  PART  OF  THIS  BOOK  MAY  IWB  REPRO- 
DUCED IN  ANY  FORM  WITHOUT  PERMISSION  IN  WRITING  FROM  THE 
PUBLISHER,  EXCEPT  BY  A  REVIEWER  WHO  MAY  QUOTE  IIEIEF  JPAS- 

SAGES  IN  A  REVIEW  TO  BE  PRINTED  IN  A  MAtiAZXNF,  OE  NEWSPAI^ER* 

LIBRARY  OF  CONGRESS  CATAXXX5  <!AR0   NO.  63-8310 
FIRST  EDXTION 


Published  simultaneously  in  Canada 

by  Little,  Brown  <z^  Company  (Canada)  Limited 

PRINTED  IN  THE  UNITED  STATES  OF  AMERICA 


In  Memory  of 
MY  FATHER 


Contents 


Prologue  3 

1.  Newhuryport  Boyhood  7 

2.  The  Young  Conservative  27 
3*  Boston  54 
4*  Benjamin  Lundy  74 

5.  The  Road  to  Prison  9* 

6.  Launching  the  Liberator  114 
7*  Fanning  the  Blames  129 
8*  Triumph  and  Doubt  in  1833  155 
9,  Mobs  and  Martyrs  178 

10-  "Our  Doom  as  &  Nation  Is  Sealed"  209 

1 1,  A  Woman  in  the  Pulpit  236 

12,  The  Politics  of  Perfection  156 

13,  Triumph  of  the  Saints  z8x 
14*  "No  Union  with  Slaveholders**  305 

15.  Compromise  338 

1 6.  The  Great  Slave  Power  Conspiracy  367 
17*  Secession  388 
1 8.  Armageddon  at  Last  409 


19.  Reconstruction  and  Redemption 

Epilogue  45* 

Notes  4^° 

Bibliography  4^4 

Bibliographical  Note  49- 

Index  495 


Illustrations 

("Between  pages  246  and  247) 

Helen  Benson  Garrison 
Garrison  and  Wendell  Phillips 

Garrison  at  fifty 

Garrison  at  seventy 

Benjamin  Lundy 

Prudence  Crandall 

Samuel  Joseph  May 

Edmund  Quiney 

Angelina  Grimki 

Sarah  Grimk6 

Theodore  Weld 

Henry  C  Wright 

Nathaniel  P,  Rogers 

Abby  Kelley  Foster 

Stephen  Symonds  Foster 


The  Liberator 

WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 


Prologue 


"TT  WILL  BE  as  harsh  as  truth,  and  as  uncompromising  as 

J[  justice/'  So  William  Lloyd  Garrison  warned  the  Ameri- 
can people  in  1831  in  the  first  number  of  the  Liberator,  his 

abolitionist  newspaper  and  for  thirty-five  years  the  strident 
voice  of  his  anti-slavery  conscience,  "On  this  subject,  I  do  not 
wish  to  think,  or  speak,  or  write,  with  moderation.  No!  no! 

Tell  a  man  whose  house  is  on  fire  to  give  a  moderate  alarm; 
tell  him  to  moderately  rescue  his  wife  from  the  hands  of  the 
ravisher;  tell  the  mother  to  gradually  extricate  her  babe  from 
the  fire  into  which  it  has  fallen; —  but  urge  me  not  to  use 
moderation  in  a  cause  like  the  present.  I  am  in  earnest  — I 
will  not  equivocate  —  I  will  not  excuse  —  I  will  not  retreat  a 
single  inch  —  AND  i  WILL  BE  HEARD." 

Garrison  was  as  good  as  his  word.  Until  Lee's  surrender 
at  Appomattox  brought  an  end  to  slavery  in  America  he 
made  himself  heard,  at  first  with  hatred,  then  with  grudging 
admiration,  and  finally  with  respect.  He  hated  slavery  be- 
cause it  denied  God  to  black  and  white  men  alike.  This 
hatred  he  preached  to  a  whole  generation  of  Northerners  and 
made  the  central  theme  of  his  life.  He  was  an  irascible  man, 
irresponsible  and  often  vindictive,  but  he  was  ako  single- 
minded  and  courageous,  If  too  often  his  moralizing  seemed 
empty  and  pretentious,  the  moral  values  he  taught  were  real 


PROLOGUE 


and  compelling.  More  than  any  other  American  of  his  time 
he  was  responsible  for  the  atmosphere  of  moral  absolutism 
which  caused  the  Civil  War  and  freed  the  slave, 

The  contradictions  in  the  man  found  their  reflection  in  the 
dominant  mood  of  ante-bellum  America,  The  American 
people  proclaimed  the  virtues  of  the  free  individual  and 
regularly  elected  military  men  for  presidents.  They  professed 
a  hatred  of  privilege  and  thought  of  themselves  as  a  chosen 
people.  They  feared  the  power  of  institutions  and  proceeded 
to  organize  societies  and  institutions  of  every  conceivable 
kind.  They  boasted  of  their  secular  Enlightenment  heritage, 
yet  remained  profoundly  Christian.  They  talked  like  prag- 
matists  and  acted  like  idealists.  They  preached  equality  and 
practiced  slavery.  And  finally,  they  believed  in  peace  but 
went  quickly  and  dutifully  to  war.  This  was  the  generation 
which  began  by  vilifying  Garrison  and  ended  by  honoring  his 
courage  and  foresight. 

When  he  died  in  1 879  few  Americans  doubted  that  he  had 
been  the  founder  and  chief  prophet  of  the  abolitionist  cru- 
sade. In  the  eighty-four  years  since  his  death,  however,  the 
Garrison  legend,  which  he  deliberately  constructed,  has 
crumbled  beneath  the  repeated  hammerings  of  historians  who 
have  questioned  his  primacy,  minimized  his  effectiveness, 
emphasized  his  fanaticism,  and  challenged  his  premises.  Some 
of  his  critics  have  discovered  new  anti-slavery  heroes  to  re- 
place  him.  Others  have  singled  out  his  turbulent  career  as 
proof  of  the  dangers  of  moral  abstractions  and  the  need  for  a 
pragmatic  approach  to  politics. 

Because  he  belonged  to  a  deeply  religious  age  Garrison 
would  not  have  understood  a  view  of  history  which  ignored 
the  hand  of  God  in  the  affairs  of  men.  The  dates  of  Ms  life- 
time, 1805-1879,  serve  as  the  terminals  of  the  age  of  Ameri- 
can religious  reform;  those  of  the  Liberator,  1831-1865,  mark 


PROLOGUE 


the  life  span  of  anti-slavery.  In  his  mind  the  energies  of 
religious  reform  and  the  forces  of  abolition  were  one  and  the 
same.  He  only  knew  that  lie  and  his  followers  were  Christian 
soldiers  doing  God's  work  in  the  world. 

The  American  abolitionists  constituted  a  religion,  and  Gar- 
rison the  leader  of  a  schismatic  sect  within  that  religion.  He 
took  the  formula  for  salvation  of  the  religious  revivalists  of 
his  day  and  applied  it  directly  to  slavery.  "Immediate  eman- 
cipation" as  he  taught  it  was  not  a  program  but  an  attitude, 
an  urgent  warning  that  shut  out  thoughts  of  expediency  or 
compromise.  Applied  to  politics,  it  fostered  an  apocalyptic 
view  of  the  world  and  released  in  him  hidden  desires  for  per- 
fection* Christian  perfection,  in  turn,  offered  the  comforting 
ideal  of  the  perfect  society,  harmonious,  self-regulating,  free 
from  the  demonic  aspects  of  power.  Garrison's  experiment  in 
practical  piety  carried  him  out  of  the  anti-slavery  camp,  be- 
yond the  Jacksonian  compass  to  the  very  borders  of  Christian 
anarchy.  It  took  secession  and  the  coming  of  a  war  he  had 
predicted  to  recall  him  to  the  realities  of  institutionalized 
slavery  and  the  task  of  abolishing  it.  For  the  failure  of  his 
generation  to  achieve  the  racial  democracy  which  the  Civil 
War  made  possible  he  must  be  held  accountable. 'He  made  the 
moral  indictment  of  slavery  which  precipitated  the  war, 
but  he  lacked  the  understanding  and  sustaining  vision  to  lead 
his  countrymen  toward  the  kind  of  democratic  society  in 
which  he  believed*  Both  in  his  great  achievement  and  in  his 
tragic  failure  he  spoke  for  his  age* 


Ncwburyport  Boyhood 


ON  A  MARCH  DAY  in  the  year  1873  William  Lloyd  Gar- 
rison sat  in  his  study  drafting  a  formal  reply  to  friends 
who  urged  him  to  write  his  autobiography.  "There  are  in- 
numerable battles  yet  to  be  fought  for  the  right,"  he  wrote 

in  his  neat  and  careful  script  as  though  for  the  eyes  of  poster- 
ity, "and  those  who  shall  hereafter  go  forth  to  defend  the 

righteous  cause  .  ,  .  cannot  fail  to  derive  strength  and  in- 
spiration from  an  intelligent  acquaintance  with  the  means  and 

methods  used  in  the  Anti-Slavery  movement/'1  He  was  not 
sure  he  was  up  to  the  job  himself.  Now  nearing  seventy  and 
in  failing  health,  he  knew  his  work  was  finished.  The  prospect 

of  compiling  a  history  of  American  abolitionism  —  for  such 

he  believed  his  life  story  to  be  —  seemed  uninviting.  He  would 
need  time,  he  told  his  friends,  to  consider  the  project. 

Sitting  erect  at  his  desk,  his  blunt  features  crowned  by  a 
massive  bald  head,  cold  blue  eyes  peering  over  square,  steel- 
rimmed  spectacles,  Garrison  looked  the  very  embodiment  of 
moral  reform*  There  was  a  righteousness  in  his  face  which 
no  one  could  mistake  for  humility.  For  thirty-five  years  he 
had  been  loved  by  only  a  handful  of  people  and  fiercely 
hated  by  many  more  who  saw  nothing  but  his  fanaticism  and 
pursuit  of  notoriety*  Now  he  was  a  legend,  hailed  throughout 
the  North  as  the  genius  of  the  anti-slavery  movement  by  a 


THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 


Union  all  too  willing  to  represent  the  Civil  War  as  a  triumph 
of  justice  and  to  name  him  one  of  its  heroes.  Much  as  he 
craved  recognition,  he  could  not  accept  this  praise,  for  he 
knew  that  not  long  ago  many  of  these  same  admirers  had 
denounced  him  as  a  traitor  to  his  country,  lie  was  not  so 
jealous  of  his  reputation  as  to  accept  fame  on  such  easy  terms. 
Admiration  without  assent  to  his  principles  left  him  unmoved. 
In  his  mind  the  emancipation  of  the  slave  had  been  a  simple 
case  of  cause  and  effect:  the  moral  energy  of  the  abolitionists 
finally  roused  a  conscience-stricken  nation  to  action*  I  le  and 
his  followers  were  God's  instruments.  Through  them  God 
had  made  a  civil  war  and  freed  the  slave. 

Garrison's  faith  in  the  moral  regeneration  of  mankind 
grew  out  of  his  belief  in  an  infinitely  merciful  God  who 
offers  eternal  salvation  from  sin.  It  was  a  religion  of  the 
heart  rather  than  the  head,  a  complex  of  emotional  impulses 
defying  analysis  and  testifying  only  to  the  will  to  believe. 
The  true  Christian,  once  assured  of  divine  aid,  purged  him- 
self of  sin  and  put  on  Christ  Then,  seeking  out  and  joining 
with  fellow  converts,  he  might  unhinge  the  immoral  govern- 
ments of  this  world  and  usher  in  a  reign  of  true  holiness*  It 
was  this  militant  Christianity  which  was  the  driving  force  of 
abolitionism. 

The  climate  of  post-Civil  War  America  was  not  congenial 
to  such  Christian  idealism.  A  new  and  alien  science  was  be- 
ginning to  challenge  Garrison's  belief  in  preordained  progress* 
Even  as  he  sat  at  his  desk  contemplating  his  life's  work,  he 
sensed  that  he  had  lived  beyond  his  time,  and  that  his  faith 
held  little  appeal  for  the  new  generation.  All  the  more  reason, 
perhaps,  to  tell  the  trae  story  of  American  anti-slavery.  To 
those  who  believed  still  in  the  perfectibility  of  man  he  would 
offer  the  evidence  of  his  life.  The  story  of  his  life,  like  the 
history  of  the  reform  movement  fox  which  it  was  expended* 


NEWBURYPORT  BOYHOOD 


has  Its  beginnings  in  the  religious  ferment  of  the  Great 
Awakening  as  it  made  itself  felt  in  the  frontier  revival  In 
eighteenth-century  Nova  Scotia. 

The  Garrison  story  begins  in  Nova  Scotia  one  day  in  the 
year  1763  with  the  arrival  from  England  of  Joseph  Garrison, 

the  grandfather  of  William  Lloyd  Garrison.  Here  on  the 
frontier  along  the  Saint  John  River,  which  cuts  through  the 
deep  forests  of  New  Brunswick,  Joseph  Garrison  met  a  group 
of  settlers  from  the  Merrimack  Valley  whose  names  had 
figured  regularly  if  not  prominently  In  the  history  of  the 
colony  for  over  a  hundred  years.  These  Massachusetts  families 
were  part  of  the  first  migration  of  adventurous  New  Eng- 
landers  drawn  to  the  frontier  by  the  promise  of  cheap  lands 
and  an  urge  to  spread  the  Great  Awakening.  The  movement 
was  mostly  a  communal  enterprise:  groups  of  families  and 
neighbors  hired  agents  to  purchase  the  lands,  settled  the 
tracts  together,  and  quickly  organized  themselves  into  trans- 
planted New  England  townships.  Such  was  the  arrangement 
which  led  to  the  founding  in  1764  of  Maugervllle,  some  fifty 
miles  up  the  Saint  John.  One  of  the  lots  was  given  to  Joseph 
Garrison,  who  was  already  exploring  the  surrounding  country 
with  an  eye  toward  establishing  a  lumber  business. 

Nothing  is  known  of  Joseph's  former  life  in  England*  Ap- 
parently he  was  just  one  of  a  great  number  of  his  countrymen 
who  took  advantage  of  the  return  of  peace  to  try  their  for- 
tunes in  the  New  World*  He  soon  joined  the  New  Englanders 
and  In  the  summer  of  1764  married  Mary  Palmer,  daughter 
of  Deacon  Daniel  Palmer,  one  of  the  leaders  of  the  com- 
munity. Thereupon  he  received  a  grant  of  land  from  his 
father~in»kw  on  an  upriver  tributary  where  he  settled  to  the 
task  of  clearing  five  hundred  acres  and  raising  a  family  of 
nine  children? 


io  THE  LIBERATOR: 


Slight  of  stature,  with  a  scarlet  birthmark  and  a  congenital 
limp,  Joseph  was  an  unprepossessing  man  who  lacked  both  the 

physical  and  temperamental  qualities  of  the  pioneer.  In  him 
optimism  ran  unchecked  by  the  more  sober  virtues  of  shrewd- 
ness and  hard  work.  Along  the  river,  even  in  his  grandson's 
day,  the  Garrisons  were  known  for  their  easygoing  ways 
and  sanguine  views.  Joseph  simply  lacked  the  industry  to 
make  his  ideas  work  for  him.  He  was  full  of  schemes  for 
exploiting  the  new  country.  He  discovered  coal  deposits 
along  nearby  Grand  Lake,  but  his  plan  for  mining  them 
proved  impractical.  When  he  contracted  to  make  barrel 
staves  for  New  England  distilleries  in  1772,  the  Revolution 
soon  put  an  end  to  his  hopes  for  a  fortune  in  the  lumber 
trade,3 

In  the  years  after  Lexington,  when  his  father-in-law  plunged 
the  town  into  revolutionary  ferment,  Joseph  stood  ul<x>f, 
refusing  to  sign  town  resolutions  supporting  the  New  Eng- 
land colonies  or  to  throw  his  lot  in  with  the  Loyalists,  Neither 
before  nor  after  the  Revolution  did  he  join  in  the  political 
life  of  the  settlement,  but  remained  on  its  edges,  an  amiable 
but  enigmatic  figure,  untouched  by  its  lively  religious  interest 
or  its  spirit  of  enterprise.  He  died  in  1783,  a  disappointed  nwn, 
leaving  a  widow,  nine  children  and  a  rundown  farm, 

Abijah,  the  fifth  child  of  Joseph  and  Mary  Garrison  sine! 
father  of  William  Lloyd  Garrison,  was  born  in  1773.  The 
pleasures  of  farming  which  eluded  his  father  appealed  even 
less  to  the  boy,  who  shared  Joseph's  penchant  for  dreaming 
and  longed  to  go  to  sea.  After  his  father's  death  Abijah  stayed 
on  the  family  place  just  long  enough  to  acquire  a  nidimenttiry 
education  and  then  shipped  aboard  a  schooner  in  the  carrying 
trade,  learned  his  seamanship  from  a  cousin,  and  eventually 
became  a  sailing  master.  The  ships  Abijah  sailed  leisurely 
runs  to  Newburyport,  often  stopping  to  take  on  cargo  at  the 


NEWBURYPORT  BOYHOOD  II 

fishing  villages  and  lumber  ports  along  the  coast.  Abijah 
liked  the  unattached  life  of  a  sailor  and  marveled  at  the  cos- 
mopolitan atmosphere  of  Ncwburyport,  which  made  the 
river  towns  in  the  province  seem  like  lonely  backwashes  in 

a  flood  tide  of  commercial  prosperity.  He  also  came  to  enjoy 
the  company  of  cronies  in  waterfront  taverns  and  developed 

a  taste  for  the  rum  which  his  ship  brought  back  from  New 
England. 
Abijah  Garrison  was  a  maverick.  Tall  and  fair,  he  was  a 

handsome  man  despite  his  prematurely  thinning  hair  and  a 
birthmark  like  his  father's.  His  full  reddish  beard  and  lively 
blue  eyes  gave  him  the  romantic  look  of  a  wanderer,  and  his 

boisterous  spirits  made  him  a  choice  companion.  He  had  a 
ready  tongue  and  a  keen  sense  of  humor  along  with  a  broad 
sentimental  streak.  Yet  Abijah,  like  his  father,  was  a  born 

failure  —  genial,  weak-willed  and  unlucky.  He  dreamed  of 
the  day  when  he  could  sail  his  own  schooner  and  meanwhile 

played  the  errant  son,  ascribing  to  misfortune  his  failure  to 
get  ahead  in  the  world.  As  he  approached  manhood  his  rela- 
tions with  his  family  grew  steadily  less  cordial,  an  apparent 
reluctance  to  pay  his  debts  more  than  once  straining  the 
parental  bond.  More  than  once,  too,  his  genial  manner  gave 
way  to  dark  suspicions  of  plots  against  his  good  name.  He 
resented  criticism  of  his  free  and  easy  life,  and  in  moments 
of  despair  saw  himself  as  a  tragicomic  victim  of  fate.  For  all 
his  irresolution  and  occasional  ill-natured  outbursts,  Abijah 
easily  won  friends  among  his  landbound  neighbors,  who 
listened  to  his  tales  of  adventure  that  linked  their  drab  lives 
with  the  bustling  world  of  New  England.  To  them  he  seemed 
a  strange  man,  oddly  likable  in  spite  of  his  taste  for  rum  and 
fear  of  hard  work* 

This  was  how  he  impressed  Fanny  Lloyd  when^  oa  one  of 
his  stops  at  Deer  Isle  in  Passamaquoddy  Bay  in  the  year  1798, 


THE  LIBF^ATOR:  wfrxiAr.oYo  GARRISON 


he  wandered  into  a  Baptist  prayer  meeting,  spied  the  hand- 
some "Miss  Blue  Jacket,"  introduced  himself  and  boldly 
escorted  her  home.  Frances  Maria  Lloyd  was  the  daughter 
of  Irish  immigrants  who  settled  on  Deer  Isle  just  prior  to  the 
Revolution.  The  Lloyds  were  not  like  the  Garrisons,  Fanny's 
father,  Andrew  Lloyd,  was  a  narrow  and  hard-bitten  Anglo- 
Irishman  who  had  left  the  grinding  poverty  of  Ireland  for 
apprenticeship  in  America.4  Hard  work  paid  off  and  Lloyd 
made  a  success  of  pioneering.  At  the  time  of  Abijah's  visit 
he  was  a  pilot  in  the  coastal  trade  and  a  sheep  farmer  on  the 
windswept  island.  A  man  of  moderate  means,  he  was  a 
stanch  Anglican  and  the  iron-  willed  patriarch  of  a  sizable 
family,  admired  and  respected  by  his  neighbors.  His  daughter 
never  forgot  the  esteem  which  her  father  enjoyed  in  the 
island  community,  for  Andrew  Lloyd  was  everything  that 
his  future  son-in-law  could  never  be  —  proud,  ambitious,  un- 
yielding and  righteous. 

Fanny  herself  was  a  tall  willowy  girl  with  features  too 
severe  to  be  pretty,  snapping  black  eyes  and  raven-black  hair. 
Unlike  her  people,  she  was  a  devout  Baptist,  the  child  of  a 
religious  revival  which  swept  across  Nova  Scotia  in  the  last 
years  of  the  eighteenth  century. 

Many  of  the  New  England  6migr6s  brought  to  the  frontier 
the  same  "New-Light"  enthusiasm  which  Jonathan  Edwards 
kindled  in  the  Connecticut  Valley  in  the  1  740*8.  The  New- 
Lights  were  religious  emotionalists  who  demanded  direct 
and  visible  proof  of  divine  grace  as  the  test  of  salvation.  The 
redeemed  were  expected  to  dramatize  their  struggle  for 
sanctification  publicly,  and  in  gatherings  which  were  often 
marked  by  excesses  to  put  on  Christ  and  declare  themselves 
blessed.  Carried  to  the  frontier  by  impassioned  converts,  this 
new  religious  spirit  spread  like  a  flash  fire  across  the  province, 
engulfing  whole  congregations  and  leaving  in  its  wake 


NEWBURYPORT  BOYHOOD  13 

dreds  of  "burned-over"  communities  of  the  newly  saved, 
For  twenty-five  years  Nova  Scotia  was  torn  by  the  same 
dissension  and  controversy  which  Edwards's  Great  Awaken- 
ing had  fomented  in  New  England.  The  result  was  religious 
revolution.  On  the  eve  of  the  American  War  for  Independ- 
ence a  majority  of  the  settlers  in  the  province  were  Congre- 
gationalists.  Twenty-five  years  later  only  two  Congrega- 
tional churches  were  left,  the  Anglican  establishment  had 
crumbled,  and  a  militant  Baptist  Church  stood  everywhere 
unchallenged.5 

Fanny  Lloyd  was  won  over  by  a  Baptist  evangelist  who 
roamed  the  province  in  the  last  years  of  the  century.  Hers 
was  the  classic  frontier  tale  of  the  worldly  young  woman 
who  came  to  scoff  and  stayed  to  pray.  The  effects  of  Baptist 
preaching  on  her  strong  will  were  mixed.  At  first  she  suc- 
cumbed to  an  obsessive  concern  with  self  and  agonized  over 
her  unworthincss.  But  the  urge  to  proselytize  —  to  bring 
others  to  salvation  —  proved  too  strong  and  hardened  her 
will  She  could,  and  usually  did,  profess  humility,  but  she 
could  not  practice  it.  Try  as  she  might  to  repress  them,  pride 
and  a  driving  ambition  always  managed  to  betray  her  es- 
sentially compulsive  nature.  Fanny  was  caught  between  a 
yearning  for  personal  holiness  and  a  longing  for  power  over 
other  people*  Above  all,  she  wanted  to  reach  out  to  other 
sinners,  convince  them  of  their  infinite  guilt,  and  save  them. 
Though  site  toyed  with  the  notion  of  renouncing  the  world 
and  its  snares,  she  was  never  able  to  relinquish  this  hold  on 
other  people. 

Her  decision  to  abandon  a  comfortable  Anglicanism  for 
the  soul-searching  rigors  of  the  Baptists  had  cost  Fanny  her 
home  and  family.  Andrew  Lloyd,  outraged  at  the  "vulgar 
enthusiasms"  of  itinerant  preachers,  pleaded  with  his  daughter, 
then  threatened,  and  finally  turned  her  out  of  his  house.  She 


14  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

was  living  with  an  uncle  when  Abijah  met  and  courted  her. 
Her  life  was  lonely  after  she  left  her  father,  and  Abijah  of- 
fered the  security  of  marriage  and  a  home  of  her  own.  She 
thought  she  saw  in  him  a  good  and  generous  man  who  could 
be  tamed  of  his  irregular  habits  by  a  religious  experience  like 
her  own.  What  Abijah  thought  he  was  getting  is  less  clear* 
What  he  did  get  was  more  than  he  bargained  for,  Fanny's 
determination  overawed  the  easygoing  seaman,  and  her 
quick  tongue  proved  more  than  a  match  for  his.  The  Impres- 
sionable Abijah  soon  fell  in  love  and  married  Fanny  some- 
time in  the  year  1798. 

Their  marriage  did  not  flourish,  Abijah's  carefree  manner 
and  lack  of  steady  income  vexed  his  proud  wife.  As  he  grew 
increasingly  unmanageable  Fanny  retreated  to  the  solaces 
of  her  religion.  Recalling  the  "rude  blast  of  misfortunes'* 
that  followed  her  marriage,  she  confessed  that  "had  it  not 
been  for  an  over-ruling  Providence,  1  must  have  sunk  under 
their  pressure.  I  was  taught  to  see  that  all  my  dreams  of  hap* 
piness  in  this  life  were  chimerical;  the  efforts  that  we  make 
here  are  all  an  imbecility  in  themselves  and  illusive,  but  re- 
ligion is  perennial.  It  fortifies  the  mind  to  support  trouble, 
elevates  the  affections  of  the  heart,  and  its  perpetuity  lias  no 
end."6  Fanny  was  never  so  happy  as  when  she  could  forget 
the  problem  of  keeping  her  husband  on  the  straight  and  nar- 
row path  and,  with  her  mind  "engaged  in  religion,1  ?  con- 
template her  heavenly  reward, 

Abijah,  in  his  turn,  was  amazed  and  then  a  little  frightened 
by  his  wife's  righteousness.  Life  at  home  became  a  battle  of 
wills  in  which  he  soon  knew  he  was  fairly  beaten.  Hi*  turned 
for  comfort  to  waterfront  cronies  and  drink.  For  the  next 
few  years  their  life  together  was  one  long  and  dreary  suc- 
cession of  removals,  first  to  the  Garrison  farm  on  the  river, 
where  Fanny  lost  her  first  child;  then  to  Saint  John,  where 


NEWBXJRYPORT  BOYHOOD 


a  daughter  Caroline  Eliza  and  a  son,  James  Holley,  were  born; 

and  then  on  to  Granvllle.  With  them  each  time  went  Abij  all's 
dream  of  success. 

As  her  family  increased  Fanny  found  her  unsettled  life 
more  and  more  difficult.  Abijah  suffered  from  periodic  at- 
tacks of  rheumatism  which  kept  him  at  home  dependent  on 
the  support  of  his  mother  and  stepfather,  whose  care  he 
acknowledged  with  a  due  sense  of  gratitude  but  with  little 
intention  of  repayment*  His  wife  worked  hard  at  converting 
him  to  Baptist  ways,  and  Abijah  even  confessed  a  desire,  no 
doubt  half  sincere,  to  "enjoy  a  Ray  of  Divine  Light  from  the 
Throne  of  God  and  Lamb."  At  sea  he  would  write  Fanny 
of  his  yearning  to  be  at  home  with  his  family  "Free'd  from 
a  Tempestuous  Sky  and  Enraged  Ocean,  with  Just  Enough 
(Good  God)  to  supply  our  Real  Wants  and  Necessities."7 
He  had  no  real  intention  of  leaving  the  sea,  however,  for  he 
was  a  skilled  seaman  if  a  poor  provider.  Reluctantly  Fanny 
admitted  that  she  could  not  change  him, 

By  1805  it  was  time  once  more  for  Abijah  to  be  moving 
on.  Renewed  hostilities  between  France  and  England  and 
the  prohibition  of  the  American  trade  hit  the  Maritimes 
hard,  and  work  as  a  sailing  master  became  difficult  to  find. 
After  months  of  indecision  Abijah  determined  to  take  his 
family  to  New  England,  where  a  hazardous  neutral  trade 
was  still  profitable*  He  admitted  that  he  had  been  following 
"the  Rule  of  false  Position,  or  rather  permutation,  these  Last 
Seven  Years"  and  promised  to  mend  his  ways.  Perhaps  a 
change  of  scene  would  help.  "Not  that  I  am  dissatisfied  to- 
wards Government,"  he  wrote  to  his  parents,  "but  the  barren- 
ness of  these  Eastern  Climes  rather  Obliges  me  to  seek  the 
welfare  of  my  family  in  a  more  hospitable  Climate,  where  I 
shall  be  less  exposed  to  the  Ravages  of  war  and  stagnation  of 
business,  which  is  severely  felt  in  Nova  Scotia*"8  Appended 


1 6  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILUAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

to  her  husband's  excuses  was  a  brief  note  from  Fanny  asking 
God's  blessing  in  all  things  temporal  and  spiritual 

A  few  weeks  later,  in  the  early  spring  of  1805,  Ahijah  and 
his  family  sailed  for  Newburyport  There  they  settled  in  a 
small  frame  house  on  School  Street  next  door  to  the  Presby- 
terian vestry  where  the  famed  revivalist  George  Whitcfield 
had  died  thirty-five  years  before.  In  this  house  on  December 
ifiijjJos,  William  Lloyd  Garrison  was  born. 

In  1805  Newburyport  was  a  thriving  seaport  town  of  five 
thousand  people  which  the  Revolution  had  transformed  from 
a  patrician  village  into  one  of  the  busiest  ports  on  the  Atlantic 
Coast.  Huddled  at  the  foot  of  a  long  ridge  at  the  mouth  of  the 
Merrimack  River,  the  town  was  the  shipbuilding  center  of 
New  England  and  the  hub  of  the  profitable  West  Indian 
trade.  From  its  yards  brigs  and  sloops  sailed  out  to  Guade- 
loupe and  Martinique,  and  fishing  fleets  left  regularly  for  the 
Grand  Banks,  returning  with  cod  and  pollock  for  reshipmcnt 
to  Baltic  and  Mediterranean  ports-  Recently  citizens  of  the 
town  had  dredged  the  harbor  and  dug  a  canal  linking  the 
'Port  with  the  lumber  country  upriver;  in  1805  they  were 
busily  reinvesting  their  profits  in  local  distilleries,  tanneries 
and  iron  foundries.  On  the  eve  of  the  renewed  war  between 
France  and  England,  Newburyport  enjoyed  the  benefits  of  a 
neutral  trade  which  flourished  as  it  never  did  again, 

North  of  the  town  along  the  river  lay  the  shipyards,  where 
master  builders  turned  out  the  ships  that  swelled  the  town's 
merchant  fleet.  To  the  south  toward  open  sea  was  "Joppa," 
the  village  of  fisherman's  shanties  with  their  racks  of  salted 
cod.  But  the  heart  of  Newburyport  was  its  waterfront  and 
commercial  houses.  Here  stood  the  huge  warehouses  at  the 
foot  of  the  docks  which  looked  out  on  the  masts  of  coasters 
and  West  Indian  traders  in  the  harbor. 

Just  above  the  docks  lay  Market  Square,  from  which  wide, 


NBWBURYPORT   BOYHOOD  1 7 

elm-shaded  streets  ran  up  the  rising  ground  to  High  Street 
and  the  long  ridge  that  overlooked  the  town.  High  Street, 
where  according  to  local  legend  "retired  merchants  do  con- 
gregate," was  second  in  prestige  only  to  Salem's  Chestnut 
Street.  Here  lived  the  wealthy  merchant  families  —  Jacksons, 
Lowells,  Tracys  and  Cusliings  — in  hip-roofed  mansions  set 
in  exotic  landscaped  gardens.  High  Street  was  a  world  of 
Stuart  portraits  and  Adam  parlors,  dress  balls  and  liveried 
footmen.  To  the  newly  arrived  Garrisons,  as  to  the  rest  of 
the  town,  it  presented  the  imposing  view  of  a  conservative  if 
not  completely  closed  society  of  first  families  who  cultivated 
the  virtues  of  decorum  and  good  taste  in  an  atmosphere  of 
cpiet  elegance.  The  opinions  of  High  Street  gentlemen  were 
decidedly  Federalist,  and  in  the  year  1 805  they  continued  to 
dominate  local  and  state  politics,  confronting  the  rest  of  the 
country  with  the  model  of  rule  by  the  Wise,  the  Just  and  the 
Good.  The  future  rebel  against  these  Federalist  principles  of 
moderation  and  good  sense  grew  up  in  the  conservative 
stronghold  of  Essex:  County  North  and  began  his  career  as  a 
defender  of  the  interests  and  family  influence  of  High  Street. 
Abijah  and  Fanny  Garrison  joined  the  "middling  ranks"  of 
Newburyport  society  —  as  the  families  on  the  hill  somewhat 
patronizingly  called  them  —  a  class  of  artisans,  mechanics, 
small  merchants,  shopkeepers  and  clerks.  If  High  Street 
cherished  the  authority  of  wealth  and  manners,  School  Street, 
where  the  Garrisons  settled,  stood  for  the  homelier  values 
of  piety  and  integrity*  Its  aim  was  not  sophistication  but 
respectability.  The  High  Street  families  took  their  pleasure 
in  soirees  and  oyster  suppers;  Abijah  and  Fanny  Garrison's 
circle  found  fellowship  in  prayer  meetings  and  evening  hymn 
sings.  Although  they  tended  to  follow  the  political  direction 
of  the  Federalist  coterie  and  shared  its  belief  in  benevolence 
and  charity,  the  tradesmen  and  artisans  of  Newburyport 


1  8  THE  LIBERATOR;  W^AM>YP  OARRISOK 


displayed  a  more  strenuous  temper  and  formed  a  society  at 
once  cruder  and  more  energetic.  Abijah  dreamed  of  some- 

day joining  the  carriage  set  on  the  hill;  his  son,  possessed  of  a 
more  sensitive  conscience,  would  live  to  reject  and  finally 
condemn  that  world. 

The  Garrisons  shared  the  frame  house  on  School  Street 
with  David  Farnham,  a  captain  in  the  coastal  trade,  and  his 
wife  Martha.  With  Farnham's  help  Abijah  soon  found  work, 
and  "Aunt  Martha"  became  a  mainstay  of  the  Garrison  house- 
hold In  the  stormy  years  ahead.  She  too  was  a  devout  Baptist, 
and  many  an  evening  the  parlor  was  filled  with  the  old  hymn 
tunes  interwoven  with  discourses  on  total  depravity  and  the 
atoning  blood  of  Christ.  With  his  father  so  often  away  from 
home,  Lloyd  —  as  his  mother  chose  to  call  him  —  grew  up  in 
an  atmosphere  of  female  piety. 

For  two  years  after  Lloyd's  birth  Abijah  shipped  «is  sailing 
master  aboard  coasters  and  appeared  periodically  between  long 
slow  voyages  to  Virginia  and  the  West  Indies,  meanwhile 
sending  word  of  himself  in  letters  that  complained  of  hard 
work  and  poor  provisions.  Back  on  shore  he  found  his  dream 
of  domestic  bliss  shattered  and  hard  luck  dogging  him  once 
more.  Even  as  he  arrived  in  Newburyport  neutral  trade  was 
already  beset  with  formidable  hazards,  for  both  French  and 
English  cruisers  were  taking  heavy  toll  of  American  mer- 
chantmen, In  1807  Jefferson's  Embargo  ended  the  prosperity 
which  Abijah  and  his  fellow  townsmen  were  beginning  to 
take  for  granted.  Newburyport  plunged  Into  a  depression 
from  which  it  never  fully  recovered.  Shipyards  and  wharves 
grew  silent,  soup  kitchens  sprang  up  along  the  waterfront 
as  hundreds  of  seamen  suddenly  found  themselves  without 
prospects  of  work.  Some  of  them  drifted  into  the  provinces, 
but  most  of  them,  like  Abijah,  hung  on  in  Newburyport  and 


NEWBURYPORT  BOYHOOD 


joined  their  employers  in  open  defiance  of  a  policy  they  be- 
lieved intentionally  devised  to  ruin  New  England, 

On  the  first  anniversary  of  die  signing  of  the  Embargo  flags 
flew  at  half -mast  in  the  town,  and  a  crowd  of  seamen,  Abijah 
among  them,  marched  to  the  old  Customs  House  to  cheer 
inflammatory  speeches  against  the  administration,  Ncwbury- 
port  took  the  lead  in  denouncing  the  "terrapin"  policies  of 
Virginia's  lordlings.  In  1808  Massachusetts,  following  the 
example  of  the  town's  .Essex  Junto,  entered  a  period  of  out- 
right resistance  to  the  national  government  which  lasted  until 
the  return  of  peace  eight  years  later.  Lloyd  Garrison's  child- 
hood years  were  bitter  ones  for  New  England.  As  the  boy 
grew  older  he  listened  eagerly  to  High  Street  explanations 
of  "Mr.  Madison's  War"  and  learned  to  share  the  Federalist 
gentlemen's  mortal  hatred  of  the  party  of  Jefferson. 

Meanwhile  Abijah's  enforced  idleness  provoked  a  domestic 
crisis.  His  wife's  ways  had  never  been  his  and  a  life  of  church- 
going  and  prayer  services  depressed  him.  Without  work  and 
apparently  disinclined  to  find  it,  he  again  took  refuge  in 
waterfront  taverns  where  he  and  his  cronies  indulged  in  the 
inexpensive  pleasures  of  damning  Jefferson  and  consuming 
quantities  of  local  rum.  Fanny's  muttering  only  aggravated 
the  trouble.  If  she  would  not  tolerate  his  carousing,  he  for  his 
part  saw  little  sense  in  swapping  conviviality  for  dubious 
promises  of  salvation.  In  the  early  summer  of  1808  tragedy 
struck  the  household  —  Caroline,  Lloyd's  eight-year-old  sister, 
died  suddenly.  The  birth  of  another  daughter,  Maria  Elizabeth, 
a  few  weeks  later  did  little  to  assuage  Fanny's  grief.  When  she 
gave  way  to  a  sudden  fit  of  temper  and  disrupted  one  of 
Abijah's  social  evenings  at  home  by  breaking  the  bottles  and 
forcibly  ejecting  his  companions,  her  husband  had  had 
enough.  He  walked  out  and  never  returned.  Years  later  he 
reappeared  on  the  Sakt  John,  a  loaely  schoolteacher  telling 


20  THE  LIBERATOR : %v  **:^ 

his  relatives  of  his  "whirl  about  the  world/'9  Bitter  and  un- 
repentant, Fanny  seldom  mentioned  his  name  again, 

With  three  children  and  no  money,  Fanny  needed  all  her 
iron  determination  to  keep  her  family  together.  But  she  was 
young  and  strong  —  her  friends  said  that  only  a  cannon  ball 
could  kill  Fanny  Garrison,  Leaving  the  children  with  Aunt 
Martha  Farnham,  she  found  work  as  a  practical  nurse  in  the 
homes  of  the  well-to-do  families  of  the  town.  Domestic  ser- 
vice involved  a  loss  of  status  that  stung  her  pride.  In  spite  of 
her  professed  contempt  for  the  opinions  of  the  world  she  bit- 
terly resented  her  reduced  circumstances.  Her  relations  with 
her  employers  were  frequently  marred  by  the  injustices,  real 
or  imagined,  she  felt  in  working  for  people  more  fortunate 
than  herself.  On  one  occasion  she  provoked  a  quarrel  with  a 
Mrs.  Gardner,  wife  of  a  Salem  doctor,  to  whom  she  gave  a 
piece  of  her  mind,  "Drawing  the  picture  of  a  true  bred  Lady 
and  a  Country  ignorant  Bred  lady  who  aspired  after  Dignify 
and  sunk  in  impertinence  and  ostentation  [.I  I  told  her  for  all 
she  was  Dr.  G['s]  Wife  I  had  seen  the  clay  that  I  would  not 
set  her  with  the  Dogs  of  my  fathers  flock*"10  Fanny  would 
court  no  one's  favor. 

She  also  worried  lest  Abijah's  weakness  appear  in  his  sons 
and  they  too  fall  into  evil  ways*  Anxiety  drove  her  to  domi- 
nate them*  Only  constant  vigilance,  she  believed,  could  exor- 
cise Abijah's  curse.  "Your  good  behavior,"  she  wrote  to  young 
Lloyd  in  one  of  her  endless  directives,  "will  more  than  com- 
pensate for  all  my  troubles;  only  let  me  hear  that  you  are 
steady  and  go  not  in  the  way  of  bad  company,  and  my 
heart  will  be  lifted  up  to  God  for  you,  that  you  may  be  kept 
from  the  snares  and  temptations  of  the  evil  world.'*11 

Her  control  over  Lloyd  was  nearly  complete.  Only  three 
years  old  when  his  father  left  home,  he  easily  fell  under  his 
mother's  sway  and  grew  up  a  model  child  and  dutiful  son. 


NKWBURYPORT  BOYHOOD 


As  companion,  teacher  and  protector  of  her  son  Fanny  left 
an  indelible  mark  on  the  boy's  mind.  All  his  life  Garrison 
was  happiest  in  the  company  of  women  most  like  his  mother, 
strong-minded  women  with  repressed  maternal  instincts.  Al- 
though lie  became  a  champion  of  women's  rights,  the  Victo- 
rian ideal  of  the  anew  woman"  remained  repugnant  to  him. 
The  image  of  his  mother,  stern  and  righteous  yet  loving  and 
compassionate,  dominated  the  man  just  as  the  real  Fanny  ruled 
his  childhood. 

With  his  brother  James,  who  was  six  years  older  than 
Lloyd  and  remembered  his  father  well,  Fanny  had  no  success. 
Resentful  of  his  mother's  domination  yet  dependent  on  her 
love,  James  ended  by  making  a  confused  and  tragic  bid  for 
independence*  The  atmosphere  in  School  Street  was  redolent 
with  maternal  solicitude  and  soul-searching  as  Fanny  strove 
to  teach  her  younger  son  a  Christian  asceticism  which  was 
not  properly  hers.  One  of  the  boy's  earliest  memories  was 
that  of  his  mother  bent  in  prayer  with  her  "Dear  Christian 
Friends"  in  the  parlor.  Years  later,  when  he  abandoned  the 
church,  charging  it  with  sectarian  exclusivencss,  Garrison 
instinctively  reverted  to  the  image  of  this  small  group  of 
communicants  as  embodying  the  true  spirit  of  Christianity, 

Lloyd  grew  up  in  extreme  poverty;  without  the  help  of 
devoted  friends  Fanny  Garrison  would  never  have  been  able 
to  provide  even  the  necessities  for  her  family-  As  a  man  he 
always  boasted  of  making  his  way  from  obscurity  to  recogni- 
tion "unaided  and  alone/'  and  in  fact  the  hardship  of  these 
early  years  made  a  lasting  impression  on  him.  The  child  of 
five  stood  on  street  corners  around  the  town  peddling  home- 
made molasses  candy  and  was  often  detailed  to  collect 
scraps  from  the  table  of  aa  certain  house  in  State  Street," 
trudging  back  home  accompanied  by  the  taunts  of  playmates* 
Although  these  childhood  scenes  left  no  apparent  trace  of 


22  THE  LIBERATOR:   WJ*^^^^^ 

bitterness  at  the  time,  Garrison  was  to  be  greatly  impressed 
with  the  power  of  wealth  and  position  all  his  life  and  secretly 
vexed  by  his  failure  to  achieve  them.  The  young  boy,  how- 
ever, inheriting  the  easy  optimism  of  the  Garrisons,  con- 
fidently assumed  that  somebody  would  always  look  out  for 
him.  Somebody  usually  did. 

In  1 8 10  after  a  visit  with  her  family  in  Nova  Scotia,  Fanny 
returned  to  Newburyport  looking  for  work  once  again. 
Within  a  year  the  town  was  razed  by  fire  and  slipped  even 
further  into  the  doldrums.  Soon  after  this  —  sometime  in 
the  year  1812— Fanny,  taking  James  with  her,  moved  to 
Lynn,  where  she  placed  him  with  a  local  cordwaincr  while 
she  took  a  position  as  housekeeper.  Lloyd  went  to  live  with 
a  Newburyport  neighbor,  Ezekiel  Bartlctt,  a  poor  woodcutter 
and  deacon  of  the  struggling  Baptist  Church.  Here  he  re- 
mained for  three  years. 

Lloyd  found  life  with  Deacon  Harriett  tolerable  if  lonely* 
After  the  daily  chores  of  splitting  and  delivering  cordwood 
to  the  houses  on  High  Street,  he  explored  the  back  country 
and  the  waterfront  in  long  solitary  excursions.  In  the  sum- 
mer there  were  swimming  in  the  harbor  and  furtive  raids 
on  the  barrels  of  molasses  piled  on  the  wharves;  in  the  winter 
he  skated  on  the  mall  and  engaged  in  snowball  skirmishes  with 
the  "Northenders."  He  was  a  slight  and  fragile  hoy*  small 
for  his  age,  and  though  never  intractable,  inclined  to  obstinacy 
like  his  mother.  Once  he  ran  away  after  a  quarrel  with  the 
deacon  and  was  finally  discovered  halfway  to  Lynn  headed 
for  his  mother.  For  the  most  part  the  Bartletts'  spartan  house- 
hold and  Fanny's  frequent  letters  of  advice  ensured  his  model 
behavior.  If  he  received  a  thorough  religious  training,  he  was 
less  fortunate  in  acquiring  an  education.  Deacon  Bartlett 
undertook  to  provide  what  he  could  for  his  schooling,  but 


NEWBURYPORT  BOYHOOD  2  3 

after  three  months  of  the  luxury  of  grammar  school  he  was 

withdrawn  to  help  his  foster  parent  earn  his  living, 

Fanny  disliked  Lynn  — only  "necessity  compels  me  to 
stay  in  it,"  she  admitted.  She  missed  Lloyd,  and  James  was 
proving  more  than  a  handful  In  the  company  of  fellow  ap- 
prentices he  had  discovered  rum.  His  revolt,  like  his  father's, 
began  and  ended  in  the  grogshop:  at  the  age  of  fourteen  he 
was  well  on  the  way  to  becoming  an  incurable  alcoholic. 
Fanny,  seeing  the  handiwork  of  Satan  in  his  misbehavior, 
scolded  and  prayed  over  him  but  only  succeeded  in  alienat- 
ing him  further.  James  found  in  blackstrap  and  the  laughter 
of  wild  companions  the  recognition  he  craved.  "I  took  a 
drink,  it  was  sweet,  and  from  that  fatal  hour  I  became  a 
drunkard."  So  runs  James's  confession  of  his  fall  from  grace. 
"I  soon  got  so  I  could  take  my  glass  as  often  as  the  master," 
he  recalled,  "and  in  a  litde  while  it  required  double  that 
quantity  to  satesfy  [sic]  my  appetite."12  From  this  point 
James's  life  became  one  long  cycle  of  drinking  bouts,  brief 
periods  of  repentance,  and  the  inevitable  fall 

Fanny  never  stopped  trying  to  save  her  older  son  and 
meanwhile  tightened  her  grip  on  Lloyd.  "Q  Lloyd,"  she  once 
wrote  to  him,  "if  I  was  to  hear  and  have  reason  to  think  you 
was  unsteady,  it  would  break  my  heart.  God  forbid!  You  are 
now  at  an  age  when  you  are  forming  character  for  life,  a 
dangerous  age.  Shun  every  appearance  of  evil  for  the  sake  of 
your  soul  as  well  as  the  body."13  James  rebelled  against  this 
compulsive  righteousness,  but  Lloyd,  secure  in  his  mother's 
absence  as  well  as  her  love,  never  felt  the  need  to  revolt 

With  the  coming  of  peace  in  1815  Lloyd  joined  his  mother 
and  brother  in  Lynn.  Soon  after  he  arrived  she  apprenticed 
Mm  to  a  Quaker  shoemaker  in  Market  Street,  Gamaliel  Oliver. 
Customers  entering  Oliver's  shop  in  the  year  1815  saw  a  frail, 
undersized  boy  of  tea  perched  on  a  high  stool  and  enveloped 


24  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILUAM U..g YP  GARRISON 

in  a  huge  leather  apron,  his  legs  dangling  beneath  the  heavy 
kpstone.  Lloyd  did  not  take  readily  to  this  new  regimen. 
Pounding  the  leather  into  shape  and  stitching  heavy  boots 
seemed  a  poor  kind  of  work.  He  had  hardly  finished  his  first 
pair  of  shoes,  however,  when  Fanny  packed  up  the  family 
and  moved  to  Baltimore,  where  another  Lynn  shoemaker*  one 
Paul  Newhall,  had  decided  to  establish  a  factory.  Newhall 
agreed  to  hire  the  boys  and  board  the  family  at  his  house,  an 
arrangement  that  seemed  a  godsend  to  the  desperate  Fanny. 
In  the  autumn  of  1815  the  Garrisons  sailed  from  Salem,  and 
while  Fanny  busied  herself  with  a  nautical  journal  and  the 
seasick  Lloyd  was  confined  to  his  cabin,  James  befriended 
the  crew  and  assured  himself  of  a  full  quota  of  rum* 

No  sooner  had  the  family  settled  in  Baltimore  than  New- 
hairs  ambitious  project  collapsed  and  Fanny  took  a  position 
in  the  home  of  a  local  merchant  to  whom  she  apprenticed 
James.  She  fought  all  James's  batdes  for  him  and  refused 
to  believe  the  reports  of  his  frequent  misbehavior*  His  own 
stories  of  ill-treatment  at  the  hands  of  his  employer  filled  her 
with  indignation,  yet  when  he  brought  his  friends  home,  she 
lectured  them  peevishly  on  the  evils  of  strong  drink  and 
loose  living.  But  James  was  already  a  hopeless  case.  Dis- 
satisfied with  his  job  and  fed  up  with  his  mother's  preaching, 
he  left  Baltimore  for  Frederick,  where  he  tried  clerking  in 
a  store,  quarreled  with  the  owner,  threatened  the  son  with  a 
knife,  and  was  fired.  He  crawled  back  to  Baltimore  and  his 
mother,  who  gave  him  her  last  fourteen  dollars  and  a  final 
lecture.  "I  promised  to  do  better,"  James  wrote  of  this  last 
painful  scene,  "and  left  my  parent  in  tears  for  the  wellfare 
[sic]  of  her  ruined  son,  I  shall  never  forget  that  parting.  It 
seemed  my  heart  would  burst,  but  I  cotdd  not  shed  a  ttar/>w 
James  left  for  Lynn  with  the  intention  of  retormng  to  the 
shoe  trade,  but  within  a  few  years  quit  his  work  and  went  to 


NKWBURYPORT  BOYHOOD  25 

sea.  Lloyd  did  not  meet  him  again  until  twenty-five  years 
later  when,  worn  out  by  drinking  and  a  life  of  debauchery, 
James  came  home  to  die. 

Garrison  remembered  little  of  this  period  of  his  life.  The 
darkly  romantic  Baltimore  of  slave  coffles  and  whipping  posts 
was  the  product  of  his  life  there  fifteen  years  later.  The  boy 
of  ten  was  closely  supervised  by  his  mother  and  seldom  strayed 
beyond  her  view.  Life  with  the  exacting  Fanny  must  have 
been  difficult,  for  he  thought  of  nothing  but  returning  to 
"Uncle  BartlettV  "He  is  so  discontented,"  complained 
Fanny  to  Martha  Farnham,  "that  he  would  leave  me  to- 
morrow and  go  with  strangers  to  N.P.;  he  can't  mention  any 
of  you  without  tears,"15  Reluctantly  she  submitted  to  his 
pleas  to  rejoin  the  Bartletts'  and  go  back  to  school.  In  the 
summer  of  1816  he  was  back  in  Newburyport  for  what 
proved  to  be  the  last  of  his  formal  education  in  the  local 
grammar  school  As  a  young  newspaperman.  Garrison  ad- 
mitted to  a  "very  inferior  education"  and  complained  that 
he  did  not  know  "one  single  rule  of  grammar/'16  His  reading 
at  this  time  consisted  of  such  sermons  and  religious  tracts  as 
the  pious  deacon  could  afford;  his  social  life  was  confined  to 
the  children's  singing  school  and  Sunday  pilgrimages  to 
church* 

The  problem  of  placing  him  in  a  trade  became  more  ur- 
gent when  Fanny's  health  suddenly  failed  and  she  realized 
that  soon  she  would  be  wholly  dependent  on  her  younger 
son.  Finding  a  position  to  his  liking  was  not  easy.  He  flatly 
refused  to  clerk  in  a  store  and  explained  that  without  capital 
he  could  never  set  up  for  himself*  Hopefully  Fanny  and 
Deacon  Bardett  apprenticed  him  to  a  Haverhill  cabinetmaker, 
but  at  the  end  of  sk  weeks,  lonely  and  unhappy,  Lloyd  ran 
away.  Despairing  of  teaching  the  headstrong  youngster  a 
trade  he  clearly  disliked,  his  master  released  him.  Then  the 


26  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  IXOYD 

deacon  noticed  an  advertisement  of  a  position  with  the 
buryport  Herald,  and  Lloyd  dutifully  applied*  The  editor, 
Ephraim  W,  Allen,  took  an  immediate  liking  to  the  keen  hut 
stubborn  boy,  and  on  October  18,  1818,  Lloyd  was  ap- 
prenticed to  Allen  for  the  term  of  seven  years.  Garrison  never 
tired  of  affirming  the  providential  nature  of  his  choice,  which 
put  into  his  hands  "the  great  instrumentalities  for  the  final 
overthrow  of  the  slave  system,  .  .  .  Had  I  not  been  a  prac- 
tical printer  —  an  expert  compositor  and  able  to  work  at  the 
press  —  there  would  have  been  no  Liberator."17  Divine  pres- 
ence aside,  his  real  education  had  begun. 


The  Young  Conservative 


FROM  1818  to  1825  Lloyd  Garrison  went  to  school  to  New 
England  conservatism  in  the  offices  of  the  Newburyport 
Herald  and  graduated  an  expert  printer  and  a  loyal  Federalist, 
Along  with  a  mastery  of  the  mechanics  of  printing  he  ac- 
quired principles  and  prejudices  which  he  kept  all  his  life. 

The  printing  trade  fascinated  the  thirteen-year-old  boy 
from  the  beginning.  So  small  at  first  that  he  had  to  perch  on 
top  of  a  fifty-six-pound  weight  to  reach  the  compositor's 
box,  he  nevertheless  learned  easily,  and  it  was  not  long  before 
he  could  handle  the  composing  stick  better  than  any  of  Allen's 
apprentices.  The  editor  taught  him  the  importance  of  clean 
copy,  and  soon  he  could  set  a  thousand  ems  an  hour  without 
a  mistake. 

He  boarded  with  his  employer.  Editor  Allen,  recognizing 
the  boy's  voracious  appetite  for  learning,  fed  it  as  best  he 
could,  Lloyd  read  constantly  and  indiscriminately  —  Shake- 
speare and  the  sentimental  novelists,  Pope,  Byron,  the  Waverly 
novels  and  Mrs.  Felicia  Hemans,  and  the  polemics  of  Federal- 
ist scribblers.  The  Herald  office  opened  a  new  world  of  poli- 
tics and  literature  to  the  young  apprentice,  who  began  to 
dream  of  entering  that  world  as  a  man  of  letters  in  his  own 
right*  Under  Allen's  tutelage  he  developed  a  keen  interest  in 
the  management  of  the  paper  aid  the  Federalist  politicians 


28  THEL^^ 

of  the  town.  Midway  in  his  apprenticeship,  when  Lloyd  was 
seventeen,  Allen  advanced  him  to  shop  foreman  with  the 
responsibility  for  making  up  the  paper, 

Lloyd  found  his  friends  among  the  other  apprentices  in 
Newburyport,  poor  boys  like  himself  who  could  not  afford 
an  education  and  approached  the  business  of  self-improvement 
in  deadly  earnest.  His  closest  friend  was  William  (Joss 
Crocker,  an  ardent  Baptist  and  later  a  missionary  to  Liberia. 
Toby  Miller  was  working  at  the  Herald  to  earn  his  tuition 
at  Andover  Seminary.  Isaac  Knapp,  another  member  of  the 
circle,  was  a  companionable  but  ineffectual  young  man  who 
also  hungered  for  fame.  He  and  Lloyd  became  fast  friends 
and  eventual  partners  in  the  Liberator.  The  liveliest  of 
Lloyd's  acquaintances  was  Thomas  Bennett,  an  adventurer  and 
amateur  classicist  who  was  preparing  a  translation  of  Cicero's 
orations. 

Along  with  these  friends  Lloyd  accepted  the  narrowing 
horizons  of  Newburyport,  He  joined  the  franklin  Club,  a 
local  debating  society,  and  spent  evenings  arguing  whether 
mixed  dancing  injured  the  morals  of  young  females  or  whether 
democracy  fostered  the  arts.  The  friends  met  regularly  in  a 
room  over  Oilman's  bookstore  to  read  poetry  and  compose 
pale  imitations  of  the  saccharine  verses  of  Mrs*  Hcmans. 
Lloyd  attended  church  regularly  and  sang  in  the  choir* 
Although  he  never  became  a  member,  he  delighted  in  weighty 
sermons,  studied  the  Bible  and  pondered  the  doctrines  of 
plenary  inspiration  and  the  second  blessing.  He  was  nearly 
the  "complete  Baptist"  his  mother  had  predicted*  a  "devout 
legalist"  with  all  the  orthodox  persuasions* 

To  his  friends  he  seemed  something  of  a  prig*  for  they 
found  his  uncommon  gravity  amusing.  "He  was  an  exceed- 
ingly genteel  young  man,"  one  of  them  remembered,  "always 
neatly,  and  perhaps  I  might  say  elegantly  dressed,  and  m 


THE  YOUNG  CONSERVATIVE  29 

good  taste,  and  was  quite  popular  with  the  ladies."1  Another 
recalled  him  as  a  "handsome  and  attractive  youth,  unusually 
dignified  in  his  bearing  for  so  young  a  man."2  Already  he  saw 
himself  as  a  man  of  probity,  Oblivious  to  the  charges  of 
prudery,  he  fashioned  an  image  of  the  young  man  of  senti- 
ment to  whom  all  things  mattered  deeply.  In  time  this  image 
grew  into  a  public  role  which  he  learned  to  play  with  con- 
summate skill.  The  Garrisonian  myth  sprang  from  this  care- 
fully cultivated  notion  of  himself  which  the  eighteen-year-old 
apprentice  offered  to  his  friends  —  the  figure  of  the  true 
Christian  gentleman  who  is  in  but  not  of  the  world.  It  was 
not  just  a  pose;  Lloyd  was  self-righteous  but  he  was  not  a 
hypocrite.  Despite  his  apparent  freedom  he  was  still  his 
mother's  son  raised  on  her  twin  convictions  that  virtue  is 
its  own  reward  and  that  piety  is  the  final  test  of  character. 
Fanny  Garrison  bequeathed  to  her  son  an  obsession  with 
purity  and  her  own  secret  craving  for  power  and  respect. 
Like  her  he  thirsted  for  recognition  —  he  would  be  admired, 
though  for  what  he  did  not  yet  know.  But  it  was  wrong,  he 
suspected,  not  to  take  life  seriously,  and  this  meant  first  of  all 
being  serious  with  oneself.  Once  he  found  a  cause  he  would 
have  fame  soon  enough.  Meanwhile  he  wore  the  look  of 
dedication  that  puzzled  his  friends  as  they  wondered  just 
what  it  was  he  sought 

After  the  return  of  peace  with  England  the  Newburyport 
Herald  continued  to  offer  its  readers  the  same  wholesome 
Federalist  fare  it  had  supplied  for  twenty  years.  As  the  organ 
of  the  party  in  Essex  County  North  it  had  changed  litde 
since  the  days  when  its  first  editor  lauded  the  "free  and 
valuable'*  administration  of  John  Adams*  Ephraim  Allen  had 
arrived  in  town  about  the  turn  of  the  century  and  during 
New  England's  long  night  of  opposition  to  the  Virginia  dy- 
nasty had  served  the  cause  faithfully  with  jeremiads  on 


3°  ™E  LIBERATOR : WXL^AM^ 

democracy  and  appeals  to  the  good  sense  of  propertied  gentle- 
men. When  Lloyd  Garrison  entered  his  office  in  1818,  Allen 
was  still  busy  trying  to  rejuvenate  a  moribund  Federalism  that 
had  barely  survived  the  Hartford  Convention,  In  this  un- 
rewarding work  he  soon  had  occasion  to  enlist  the  editorial 
talents  of  his  apprentice. 

Young  Garrison's  education  was  no  mere  flirtation  with 
the  spirit  of  conservatism  but  a  thorough  indoctrination  in 
Federalist  legend  and  lore.  The  files  of  the  Herald  held  a 
whole  library  of  party  history,  from  the  secessionist  schemes 
of  Timothy  Pickering  to  the  ill-fated  deliberations  of  the 
Hartford  Convention.  All  the  spoils  of  a  thirty-year  war  of 
words  lay  at  Lloyd's  fingertips.  He  studied  the  dire  prophe- 
cies of  Fisher  Ames,  lingered  over  the  oratorical  flourishes 
of  Harrison  Gray  Otis,  relished  the  caustic  phrases  of  Timothy 
Pickering,  and  thrilled  to  the  harangues  of  free-swinging 
Federalist  editors  of  an  earlier  day.  The  epic  of  New  Eng- 
land's straggle  against  Democracy  and  Infidelity  was  charged 
with  all  the  drama  and  suspense,  the  histrionics  and  the  pag- 
eantry needed  to  capture  the  loyalty  of  a  high-principled 
young  blood.  From  these  Federalist  stalwarts  Lloyd  (earned 
both  the  art  of  dramaturgy  and  the  difficult  science  of  fight- 
ing impossible  odds. 

The  archpriest  of  Federalist  journalism  was  Benjamin  Run- 
sell,  who  in  announcing  the  advent  of  a  new  "era  of  good 
feeEngs"  in  1815  admitted  only  to  the  willingness  of  Mas- 
sachusetts to  forgive  an  errant  Republic  its  mistakes*  In  thus 
proclaiming  the  magnanimity  of  New  England*  Russell  put 
the  official  Federalist  seal  on  the  trace  with  die  rest  of  the 
country  as  well  as  on  the  party's  admission  of  defeat*  Re- 
pudiated at  the  polls  again  in  181:6,  the  spirit  of  Federalism 
retired  to  the  chill  libraries  of  Essex  County  mansions  where 
elderly  admirers  of  Timothy  Pickering  reminisced  over  the 


THE  YOUNG  CONSERVATIVE  31 

lost  greatness  of  the  Junto.  As  he  read  the  partisan  accounts 
of  the  battles  against  democracy,  Lloyd  Garrison  concluded 
that  Federalism  still  lived.  What  the  party  needed,  he  con- 
vinced himself,  was  a  new  editor  cut  to  the  pattern  of  Benja- 
min Russell,  whose  hammer-like  blows  struck  sparks  of  truth. 
Who  knew  but  that  someday  Russell's  mantle  might  fall  on 
him?  It  was  a  dream  worth  cultivating.  While  New  England 
joined  the  rest  of  the  country  in  opening  the  New  West, 
Lloyd  turned  back  to  the  lost  engagements  of  Federalist  his- 
tory and  learned  his  lessons  so  well  that  soon  he  could  recall 
with  the  best  of  High  Street  gentlemen  the  evil  days  when 
"the  ghost  of  democracy  stalked  through  our  towns,  carrying 
desolation  and  death  to  the  rights  and  liberties  of  the  people."3 

Newburyport  had  been  the  home  of  Federalism  even  before 
John  Adams  coined  the  term  Essex  Junto  for  its  knot  of  dis- 
contented and  obstinate  conservatives.  Not  many  cities  on 
the  seaboard  could  match  its  roster  of  distinguished  Federalists 
-*  Congressmen  Thcophihis  Parsons,  Stephen  Higginson,  and 
Tristram  Dalton,  Judge  John  Lowell,  and  the  merchant 
princes  Jonathan  Jackson  and  Nathaniel  Tracy.  Joined  to 
Salern's  Chestnut  Street  and  Boston's  State  Street,  the  elm- 
shaded  walks  along  High  Street  formed  the  backbone  of 
Massachusetts  Federalism.  Boston  boasted  of  the  wealth  of 
newly  arrived  Essex  County  6migr6$,  but  Newburyport  and 
Salem,  where  aristocratic  discontent  cooled  the  Indian  summer 
of  the  party,  were  the  real  centers  of  conservative  opinion  in 
America* 

In  the  Federalist  view  the  future  of  the  country  ky  not  in 
the  West  with  its  wild  notions  of  equality  and  license  but  in 
settled  coastal  villages  like  Newburyport  where  people  lived 
sober  and  decent  lives.  To  aid  them  in  their  struggle  against 
the  New  West  the  New  England  Federalists  invoked  a  myth 
as  old  as  John  Wkthrop's  City  on  a  HiU  —  the  myth  of  New 


32  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  CARRLSON 

England's  mission  to  civilize  the  wilderness.  The  New  Eng- 
land mission,  preached  by  politicians  and  clergymen  alike, 
reinforced  a  sectional  pride  that  lived  on  after  the  death  of 
the  Federalist  Party  into  a  new  age  when  the  slavery  contro- 
versy gave  it  the  appearance  of  fact. 

This  faith  in  the  peculiar  destiny  of  New  England  was  the 
intellectual  heritage  of  Lloyd  Garrison.  He  came  to  believe 
in  the  superiority  of  his  section  as  firmly  as  in  the  stern  God 
of  the  Baptists.  In  Fisher  Ames  and  Timothy  Pickering  he 
discovered  the  naturally  appointed  leaders  of  the  nation.  As 
he  studied  the  history  of  the  secessionist  movement  in  New 
England  it  seemed  to  him  that  never  had  Massachusetts  been 
so  glorious  as  when,  outmaneuvered  by  a  hostile  administra- 
tion, she  refused  to  support  an  unjust  war  and  retreated  into 
splendid  isolation.  The  lofty  ideals  in  which  the  Junto  enve- 
loped their  plots  seized  the  imagination  of  the  budding 
Federalist.  In  1845,  at  the  height  of  the  slavery  controversy  in 
Massachusetts,  he  would  argue  for  separation  from  the  Union 
in  terms  which  were  essentially  those  of  his  spiritual  guide 
and  mentor,  Timothy  Pickering. 

As  the  captain  of  New  England  secessionism  Pickering 
always  identified  his  cause  with  righteousness.  "I  am  dis- 
gusted with  the  men  who  now  rule  and  with  their  measures/* 
he  wrote  to  Rufus  King  in  1804*  ".  *  .  I  am  therefore  ready 
to  say  'Come  out  from  among  them,  and  be  ye  separate**  "* 
When  corruption,  he  went  on,  was  the  object  and  instrument 
of  the  President  and  the  tendency  of  his  administration,  what 
was  left  but  to  withdraw?  Pickering  foresaw  nothing  but 
peace  and  harmony  resulting  from  secession.  The  South 
would  need  the  naval  protection  of  the  North,  which  in  turn 
would  require  agricultural  products  from  the  Southern  Con- 
federacy. Pickering's  real  reasons  for  advocating  secession, 
however,  were  political  "I  believe,  indeed,"  he  argued  with 


TOE  YOUNG  CONSERVATIVE  33 

the  precise  logic  of  the  unworldly,  "that,  if  a  Northern  con- 
federacy were  forming,  our  Southern  brethren  would  be 
seriously  alarmed,  and  probably  abandon  their  virulent  meas- 


ures."8 


Forty  years  later  Garrison  proposed  Northern  secession  in 
almost  identical  terms.  He  never  read  Pickering's  correspond- 
ence and  would  have  denied  the  similarity  of  their  arguments. 
The  parallel  is  nonetheless  striking.  As  a  self-appointed  judge 
of  American  life,  Pickering  displayed  the  same  unbending 
rectitude  and  disregard  of  consequences  that  marked  Garri- 
son's anti-slavery  views.  Pickering,  to  be  sure,  expressed  no 
very  strong  opinions  on  slavery  —  his  opposition  to  the  system 
extended  no  further  than  an  objection  to  the  three-fifths 
clause.  In  1812  he  was  perfectly  willing  to  unite  with  South- 
ern slaveholders  in  detaching  the  West.  In  pursuing  his 
version  of  truth  he  was  no  more  consistent  than  Garrison. 
Pickering  would  have  abhorred  the  doctrines  of  the  Liberator •, 
and  Garrison  lived  to  disown  both  the  Revolutionary  genera- 
tion of  which  Pickering  was  a  member  and  the  Constitution 
he  helped  to  ratify.  Yet  both  men,  each  in  his  own  time,  tried 
to  capture  the  revolutionary  tradition,  the  first  in,  defense  of 
minority  privilege,  the  other  in  support  of  human  rights. 

Only  as  the  last-ditch  stand  of  a  repressed  minority  can 
New  England  Federalism  and  Garrisonian  abolitionism  be 
compared.  Still,  Pickering's  plots  contained  the  ingredients 
for  martyrdom  as  his  pupil  was  quick  to  see.  There  was  just 
enough  tenacity  in  young  Garrison  for  him  to  recognize  his 
hero's  dedication  and  reckless  determination.  Narrow  and 
pharLsaical  Pickering  certainly  was,  but  when  he  stood  forth 
as  the  champion  of  sectional  interests  in  the  face  of  national 
hostility,  he  appeared  the  personification  of  virtue,  a  man  of 
"unsullied  reputation*"0  It  was  no  coincidence  that  Lloyd 
Garrison  made  his  debut  on  the  political  stage  in  the  role 


34  _  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM 


of  a  young  Galahad  rescuing  a  languishing  Federalism  and 
burnishing  the  tarnished  reputation  of  its  spokesman. 

Lloyd  noticed  as  he  worked  at  the  compositor's  desk  that 
most  of  the  communications  from  readers  that  crossed  Allen's 

desk  eventually  found  their  way  into  print.  A  perennial 
source  of  native  American  humor  and  no  doubt  a  favorite 
topic  in  the  Franklin  Club  was  the  blessings  of  bachelorhood, 
Lloyd  made  his  first  appearance  in  print  at  the  age  of  eighteen 
in  a  letter  defending  this  time-honored  institution  and  warn- 
ing against  "Hymen's  silken  chains"  and  brawling  and  con- 
tentious females.7 

From  domestic  tyranny,  "An  Old  Bachelor/1  as  he  styled 
himself,  turned  to  adventure  —  a  fictional  account  of  a  ship- 
wreck less  significant  for  its  complete  ignorance  of  nautical 
matters  than  for  its  unconscious  religious  and  sexual  symbol- 
ism. Sailing  from  Bermuda  to  Liverpool,  the  narrator  is 
awakened  in  the  middle  of  the  night  by  a  crash  which  "pre- 
cipitated me  out  of  my  birth  [sic]  against  the  opposite  side 
of  the  room."  Groping  his  way  to  the  deck,  he  finds  that  the 
vessel  has  struck  a  reef  and  "bilged."  Quickly  he  clambers 
into  a  Hfeboat  filled  with  the  members  of  the  crew  and  pushes 
off  into  the  storm.  There  is  a  terrifying  glare  of  lightning, 
but  a  dead  silence  surrounds  the  lifeboat.  Suddenly  a  giant 
wave  swamps  the  fragile  longboat,  and  the  narrator,  "being 
an  expert  swimmer,"  seizes  an  par  and  strikes  off  alone* 

I  heard  the  groans  of  my  expiring  companions  re-echo  over  the 

vast  expanse  of  waters,  fainter  and  more  faint,  and  then  -  all  was 
silent!  An  awful  and  most  horrible  stillness  reigned:  1  murmured 

agaiast  that  Providence  who  had  so  wonderfully  preserved  my 
life  before  —  it  was  a  moment  of  despair;  —  I  thought,  or  fancied 
I  thought,  that  one  of  my  dying  companions  was  grasping  me 
with  the  strength  of  a  giant,  and  endeavoring  to  draw  me  under 


THE  YOUNG  CONSERVATIVE  35 

with  him  —  or  that  some  terrible  monster  of  the  deep  was  swallow- 
ing me  tip  in  his  terrific  jaws  —  a  cold  trfemor  pervaded  my  whole 
frame  — my  head  grew  dizzy,  and  my  senses  were  completely 
worked  up  to  a  frenzy  —  I  uttered  a  piercing  shriek,  and  swooned 

away. 

He  awakes  to  find  himself  miraculously  cast  up  oa  a 
sandy  beach  with  his  oar  "grasped  firmly"  in  his  hands-8 

This  thinly  disguised  drama  of  salvation  prefigures  die  pat- 
tern of  Garrison's  adult  life.  The  anxiety  and  self-alienation, 
the  overwhelming  sense  of  guilt  and  total  reliance  on  God's 
grace  disclose  a  personality  less  concerned  with  the  claims  of 
people  than  with  the  awesome  commands  of  a  father.  Like 
his  narrator  in  the  tale,  Garrison  would  be  ready  to  abandon 
his  comrades  in  his  struggle  for  salvation.  Already  Fanny 
Garrison's  convictions  were  hardening  into  a  protective  au- 
thoritarianism over  the  insecurity  of  her  eighteen-year-old 
son. 

With  pardonable  pride  Lloyd  wrote  to  his  mother  of  his 
astonishment  uat  the  different  subjects  which  I  have  discussed, 
and  the  style  in  which  they  are  written."  He  assured  her  that 
he  was  successfully  cultivating  "the  seeds  of  improvement" 
and  developing  his  intellectual  powers.9  In  fact,  his  was  a 
mediocre  literary  talent.  He  lacked  a  feeling  for  the  sound 
and  shape  of  words  as  well  as  a  natural  sense  of  rhythm.  As 
he  modeled  his  work  on  the  accepted  journalistic  style  of  the 
day  he  came  to  depend  on  an  Addisonian  rhetoric  that  al- 
ways shackled  his  prose.  James  Russell  Lowell  once  observed 
that  there  is  death  in  the  dictionary,  that  true  vigor  does  not 
pass  from  page  to  page,  but  from  man  to  man.  It  is  just  this 
absence  of  human  contact  that  mars  Garrison's  mature  style. 
At  best  in  a  handful  of  Liberator  editorials  his  words,  though 
inspired  by  passion,  are  rhetorical  and  impersonal.  More  often 


36  THE  LIBERATOR:  W'LJJAMJU^OTO 

they  are  simply  turgid  and  monotonous.  These  youthful  at- 
tempts, like  so  much  of  his  later  writing,  betray  the  failure 
of  feeling  in  a  shallow  and  unimaginative  mind.  They  may 
have  kept  him  from  wasting  time,  as  he  told  his  mother,  "in 
that  dull,  senseless,  insipid  manner  which  generally  character- 
izes giddy  youths,"  but  they  hardly  justified  the  "signal 
success17  he  claimed  for  them  with  readers  of  the  Herald. 

Lloyd's  obvious  need  for  new  ideas  was  supplied  by  Caleb 
Gushing,  whose  return  to  Newburyport  in  1821  helped  widen 
his  young  friend's  intellectual  horizons.  Gushing  was  the 
son  of  a  wealthy  local  merchant  and  a  recent  graduate  of 
Harvard,  where  first  as  a  student  and  then  as  a  tutor  he  had 
discussed  politics  with  Harvard's  young  scholars,  George 
Bancroft,  Jared  Sparks,  and  Edward  Everett,  He  had  even 
written  an  article  for  Everett's  North  American  R&ui&w  de- 
nouncing slavery,  which  he  traced  to  prejudices  of  the  whites 
"with  regard  to  the  minds  of  the  blacks  whom  we  desired  to 
believe  incapable  of  elevation,  order  and  improvement/*10 
He  condemned  slavery  as  unchristian  and  unrealistic  but  added 
significantly  that  emancipation  posed  insoluble  problems.  In 
1821  Gushing  came  home  to  practice  law  as  a  first  step  toward 
entering  politics.  Cosmopolitan  and  urbane,  he  brought  a 
new  tone  to  the  Herald,  whose  staff  he  joined  first  on  a  part- 
time  basis  and  then,  in  Allen's  absence,  as  temporary  editor, 

It  was  Gushing  who  first  called  young  Garrison's  attention 
to  slavery.  To  be  sure,  New  England  had  disapproved  of  the 
institution  ever  since  the  Revolution,  and  for  years  the  three- 
fifths  clause  of  the  Constitution  had  been  a  stormy  issue  in 
Congress  and  the  subject  of  much  debate  back  home*  A 
serious  student  of  Federalism  like  Lloyd  could  hardly  have 
avoided  the  pronouncements  of  his  heroes  on  the  evils  of 
slavery.  Even  the  Herald  carried  occasional  accounts  of  aboli- 
tion in  England  and  news  of  the  American  Colonizadon 


THE  YOUNG  CONSERVATIVE  37 

Society.  From  his  mother  he  had  learned  that  slavery  and 
true  Christian  spirit  were  incompatible.  During  a  nearly  fatal 
attack  of  consumption  Fanny  wrote  him  of  her  colored  nurse, 
"so  kind  no  one  can  tell  how  kind  she  is,  and  although  a 
Slave  to  Man,  yet  a  freeborn  soul,  by  the  Grace  of  God."11 
This  Lloyd  knew  well  enough,  but  absorbed  in  the  fascinat- 
ing business  of  acquiring  a  reputation,  he  did  not  regard 
slavery  as  a  serious  problem  until  Gushing  opened  his  eyes. 
Cushing's  scruples  mirrored  the  confusion  of  a  growing 
opinion  in  New  England  that  condemned  slavery  in  the  ab- 
stract but  hesitated  for  political  reasons  to  meddle  with  it. 

Slavery  was  not  the  only  topic  which  Lloyd  discussed  with 
his  new  friend.  Gushing  lent  him  books  and  urged  him  to 
undertake  other  challenging  subjects.  Revolutions  in  South 
America,  rebellions  in  Greece,  uprisings  in  Verona  and  Naples 
all  seemed  to  forecast  the  eventual  triumph  of  the  people  over 
the  forces  of  reaction  and  repression,  Lloyd's  investigation  of 
the  South  American  revolts  led  him  to  denounce  American 
foreign  policy  in  ringing  tones.  If  the  new  republics  could  not 
rid  themselves  of  "the  dross  of  superstition  and  tyranny"  on 
their  own,  they  must  be  taught  to  enforce  justice  and  pay 
due  respect  to  the  American  flag.  Coercion  held  the  answer, 
"The  only  expedient  to  command  respect  and  protect  our 
citizens  will  be  to  finish  with  the  cannon  what  cannot  be  done 
in  a  conciliatory  manner,  where  justice  demands  such  pro- 
ceedings.**w  The  appeal  to  force  came  easily  to  young  Garri- 
son, Christian  nonresistance  lay  far  in  the  future,  a  cause  to 
be  fervently  embraced  until  war  promised  to  accomplish  what 
moral  suasion  alone  could  not*  Forty  years  later  Garrison 
would  return  to  this  youthful  conviction  that  since  the  right 
is  mighty,  one  must  not  cavil  at  the  just  use  of.  force, 

In  18x3  Massachusetts  Federalists  chose  Harrison  Gray 
Otis  as  their  candidate  for  governor*  The  campaign  of  one 


38  THE  LIBERATOR: 


of  his  heroes  gave  Lloyd  his  first  real  chance  to  defend  the 

principles  of  Federalism  and  the  reputation  of  an  idol  which 
had  been  severely  damaged  by  the  Hartford  Convention. 
A  new  cause  recpired  a  new  nom  de  plume.  On  March  14, 
1823,  the  Herald  ran  the  first  of  a  series  of  letters  signed  "One 
of  the  People'7  extolling  the  "superior  intellect"  of  1  Harrison 
Gray  Otis  and  the  Federalists.  Otis  may  have  been  Lloyd's 
ideal  statesman,  but  as  a  gubernatorial  candidate  he  proved 
a  distinct  liability.  Unable  to  explain  the  "deep  lethargy"  into 
which  the  Federalist  Party  had  fallen,  Lloyd  prepared  for 
the  worst  by  warning  of  the  "tremendous  evikn  that  would 
accompany  Otis's  probable  defeat* 

„  .  .  then  it  is  that  we  are  forced,  however  reluctantly,  to  cast 
back  our  recollections  to  those  destructive  measures  which  were 
adopted  by  our  oponents  by  which  the  liberties  of  our  people 
were  hazarded  with  impunity,  as  the  friendly  beacon  for  every 
true  Federal  Republican  to  remain  in  the  course  he  has  strictly 
pursued,  which  carries  him  safe  from  the  shoals  of  delusion,  upon 
which  his  enemies  are  wrecked*13 

Delusion  prevailed:  Otis  carried  Newbnryport  but  lost 

Essex  County  and  the  rest  of  the  state.  "One  of  the  People1* 
retired  into  editorial  limbo* 

These  early  editorials  evidence  more  passion  than  political 
acumen*  Slowly  the  young  man  was  mastering  the  difficult 
art  of  avoiding  argument  Temperamentally  unfitted  for  the 
work  of  logical  exposition,  he  simply  was  not  happy  with 
ideas.  His  effectiveness  as  a  Federalist  propagandist  and  later 
as  an  anti-slavery  agitator  depended  less  on  an  analysis  than 
a  total  disregard  of  other  people's  ideas.  Already  he  disdained 
to  treat  his  adversaries  seriously:  convinced  that  only  malice 
could  explain  the  wanton  attacks  on  Otis,  he  refused  to  in- 


THE  YOUNG  CONSERVATIVE  39 

vcstigate  them.  This  studied  contempt  for  his  opponents 
furnishes  the  key  to  his  peculiar  use  of  language.  Beneath  the 
invective  and  the  vituperation  lay  a  belief  in  the  moral  de- 
pravity of  those  who  disagreed  with  him.  He  accepted  the 
Federalist  myth  at  face  value  —  to  him  the  Republicans  really 
were  a  "turbulent  faction"  rallying  around  a  "rebellious 
standard."  Violence  to  fact  troubled  the  neophyte  Federalist 
no  more  than  it  did  the  abolitionist  editor.  Even  now  he  viewed 
the  American  political  scene  as  the  stage  for  a  morality  play 
and  politicians  as  Bunyanesque  symbols  of  good  and  evil. 
These  editorial  experiments  written  with  a  conviction  worthy 
of  a  better  cause  show  the  hardening  mind  of  a  zealot. 

By  the  summer  of  1823  Fanny  Garrison  was  dying  of  con- 
sumption and  longed  to  see  her  younger  son  once  more. 
Reluctantly  he  agreed  to  come  to  Baltimore  since  he  disliked 
leaving  home  just  when  he  was  becoming  a  success.  His 
determination  to  become  an  author  stiffened  his  mother's 
resistance.  "You  have  no  doubt  read,"  she  warned  him  in  a 
last  letter  before  his  arrival,  "of  the  fate  of  such  characters, 
that  they  generally  starve  to  death  in  some  garret  or  place 
that  no  one  inhabits;  so  you  may  see  what  fortune  and  luck 
belong  to  you  if  you  are  of  that  class  of  people/'14  Lloyd 
found  her  weak  and  bedridden  and  was  strangely  moved  by 
their  reunion.  "You  must  imagine  my  sensations/*  he  wrote 
to  Allen,  "on  beholding  a  dearly  loved  mother,  after  an 
absence  of  seven  years*  I  found  her  in  tears  —  but  O  God,  so 
altered,  so  emaciated,  that  I  should  never  have  recognized  her, 
had  I  not  known  there  was  none  else  in  the  room,"15  Early 
in  September,  1823,  Fanay  died,  and  after  attending  to  her 
burial  Lloyd  returned  to  Newburyport. 

It  was  not  to  the  solaces  of  his  mother's  religion  that  Lloyd 
turned  in  the  next  year  but  to  the  forthcoming  presidential 
election.  Nowhere  did  the  tides  of  partisan  political  feeling 


40  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

run  higher  in  the  spring  and  summer  of  1824  than  in  Essex 
County,  where  diehard  members  of  the  old  Junto  plotted  to 
sabotage  the  campaign  of  John  Quincy  Adams,  that  "rank 
apostate"  from  true  Federalism,  and  throw  the  state  to 
William  H.  Crawford.  As  the  campaign  neared  its  climax 
Garrison,  now  an  open  champion  of  Pickering  and  the  Junto, 
deserted  the  columns  of  the  Herald  for  those  of  the  Salem 
Gazette  to  lambaste  Adams  and  loudly  proclaim  the  little- 
known  merits  of  Crawford.  With  the  first  of  a  series  of  edi- 
torials entitled  "The  Crisis"  and  signed  "Aristides"  he  was 
back  in  the  political  arena  again  offering  his  dubious  talents 
in  the  service  of  another  lost  cause, 

In  Crawford,  he  discovered  the  son  of  a  humble  farmer 
struggling  against  the  adversities  of  life;  in  Adams,  the  son 
of  an  ex-President  rolling  in  wealth  and  supported  by  his  sire's 
popularity.  Scarcely  more  accurate  was  his  characterization 
of  Andrew  Jackson,  who  by  the  late  summer  had  begun  to 
outdistance  his  rivals.  Open  letters  to  Jackson  from  irate 
Federalists  flooded  the  New  England  press,  and  Garrison,  not 
to  be  outdone,  devoted  two  columns  to  apprising  the  general 
of  his  unfitness  for  the  exacting  duties  of  public  office*  Jack- 
son, he  warned,  possessed  the  "savage  and  domineering  spirit" 
of  one  "born  and  bred  up  in  the  field."  As  for  the  people  — 
the  same  electorate  presumably  intelligent  enough  to  elect 
Crawford  —  they  were  not  to  be  trusted.  Here  speaks  the 
true  Federalist: 

Sir,  republics  are  always  in  danger;  aspiring  and  designing  men 

can  easily  cheaply  purchase  the  tools  of  faction,  to  consummate 
their  wishes.  The  views  of  the  people,  however  pure  and  upright 
they  may  first  be,  are  nevertheless  shuffling  and  fickle  when  the*se 
insidious  agents  are  let  loose  upon  the  community*  Flattery 


THE  YOUNG  CONSERVATIVE  41 

judiciously  disposed,  can  lull  them  into  the  by-paths  of  error,  and 
prejudice  will  warp  and  mislead  them.16 

With  a  final  warning  to  the  freemen  of  Massachusetts  to 
look  to  their  liberties  and  elect  Crawford,  "Aristides"  retired 
from  the  conflict,  Massachusetts  guarded  her  freedom  by 
voting  solidly  for  John  Quincy  Adams.  To  all  but  the  credu- 
lous Lloyd  Garrison  it  was  clear  that  the  Federalist  Party 
was  dead.  lie  would  make  one  last  attempt  to  raise  the 
spirit  of  conservatism  before  joining  the  ranks  of  Adams's 
supporters  in  1828.  By  then  he  was  four  years  too  late. 

The  year  1825  saw  Lloyd  back  on  the  Herald  for  his  last 
year  of  apprenticeship.  His  life  for  the  next  twelve  months 
was  uneventful,  for  Newburyport  still  slumbered  untouched 
by  the  currents  of  reform  that  were  gathering  in  New  York 
and  the  Ohio  Valley.  The  Franklin  Club  met  regularly,  and 
he  rehearsed  his  speeches  in  the  solitude  of  the  local  cemetery, 
practicing  for  the  time  when  he  could  deliver  his  maiden 
political  address.  His  appetite  for  literature  involved  him  in  a 
heated  exchange  with  John  Neal,  the  Yankee  humorist,  in 
the  first  round  of  an  editorial  scrap  which  lasted  for  years. 
Neal  surveyed  the  American  literary  scene  for  the  readers 
of  Bhckrwood')$  and  pronounced  it  a  barren  waste.  His  dis- 
missal of  such  worthies  as  Joel  Barlow  and  Thomas  Fessenden 
brought  Garrison  charging  to  their  defense  in  a  long  and 
belligerent  essay  in  which  he  dismissed  Neal  as  a  madman 
"fitter  to  be  confined  for  real  downright  insanity  and  clothed 
in  a  straight  jacket,  than  obtruding  his  pestiferous  productions 
upon  the  public."17  America,  he  admitted,  still  required  the 
finishing  hand  of  time,  but  there  was  a  rich  harvest  of  fame 
shortly  to  be  gathered  in.  Fie  might  have  added  that  he  meant 
to  share  in  that  harvest 

Lloyd  celebrated  his  twentieth  birthday  with  the  end  of  his 


41  __  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILtlAM 

apprenticeship.  His  had  been  an  education  in  sentiment:  he  had 
learned  to  pay  lip  service  to  the  conservative  principles  of 
Federalism  though  as  yet  he  scarcely  understood  them.  What 
appealed  to  him  most  was  the  romantic  spirit  of  revolt  in  the 
last  stand  of  the  old  seaboard  aristocracy.  The  fact  that 
Pickering's  rebellion  had  been  a  war  of  revenge,  that  the 
Junto  acted  from  personal  hatred  only  added  the  color  of 
personalities  to  a  moral  issue.  High-mindcdness  and  self- 
deception  make  an  inflammable  mixture.  In  time  the  seces- 
sionist impulse  of  the  Federalists  fused  with  the  most  temperate 
of  social  philosophies  would  produce  that  peculiar  com- 
pound which  another  generation  called  "Garrisonism."  For  all 
their  bellicose  spirit,  however,  these  editorial  experiments 
were  the  work  of  a  fledgling  reformer  still  casting  about  for  a 
cause. 

In  December,  1825,  Garrison  left  the  Herald.  More  than 
anything  else  now  he  wanted  a  newspaper  of  his  own  and  a 
chance  to  be  a  force  outside  politics.  He  knew  that  words 
would  be  his  means  to  power  and  that  he  could  manipulate 
them  to  make  himself  the  fearless  crusader  he  wanted  to  be 
—  they  were  his  instruments  for  transforming  a  private  vision 
into  a  public  role.  Three  months  after  leaving  the  Herald 
he  had  established  himself  as  sole  owner,  editor  and  printer 
of  the  Newburyport  Free  Press* 

AUen,  advanced  him  the  money  for  his  venture,  which 
turned  out  to  be  a  poor  risk.  The  small-town  newspaper  at 
this  time  served  as  the  handmaiden  of  the  politician  and 
shared  his  fate  when  the  election  returns  came  in*  Sk  months 
before  an  important  national  election  local  party  members 
would  rent  a  room,  hire  an  editor  on  a  one-year  contr&cr, 
and  buy  a  press  with  just  enough  type  to  print  a  serviceable 
party  bulletin.  After  the  election,  depending  on  the 
of  their  candidate,  they  might  continue  the  sheet  as  a  party 


THE  YOUNG  CONSERVATIVE  43 

organ  or  sell  it  to  the  next  adventurer  for  a  song.  The  latter 
was  the  case  with  the  Free  Press,  or  Northern  Chronicler,  as 
it  was  originally  called  by  the  Jacksonian  clique  which 
founded  it  in  1824.  The  next  year  they  sold  it  to  Isaac  Knapp, 
Lloyd  Garrison's  earnest  friend;  but  Knapp  had  neither  a 
nose  for  news  nor  a  head  for  figures,  and  six  months  of 
struggling  with  his  creditors  convinced  him  that  the  town 
could  not  or  would  not  support  two  newspapers.  Accord- 
ingly, on  March  16,  1826,  he  announced  his  retirement  for 
reasons  of  health  and  the  transfer  of  his  paper  to  "MR. 
WILLIAM  L.  GARRISON,  a  young  gentleman  who  possesses  a 
thorough  knowledge  of  the  business,  and  of  known  talent 
and  integrity."18  It  took  the  new  owner  just  six  months  to 
realize  he  had  made  a  bad  bargain. 

To  set  his  paper  on  the  proper  course  Garrison  rechristened 
it  the  Free  Press,  a  title,  he  explained,  "sonorous  and  politically 
more  appropriate.'*^  In  the  very  first  issue  he  announced  his 
independence  of  all  parties  and  factions.  Readers'  doubts  as  to 
the  new  editor's  political  views,  however,  were  quickly  dis- 
pelled when  they  discovered  on  the  masthead  the  old  Federal- 
ist slogan  Onr  Country  —  Our  Whole  Country  —  And  Noth- 
ing But  Our  Country,  There  could  be  no  doubt  as  to  which 
was  the  side  of  the  angels:  the  Free  Press  trumpeted  its 
editor's  militant  Federalism. 

Now  an  enterprising  young  man  stepping  into  the  political 
scene  in  1826  might  have  ensured  his  own  future  and  that  of 
his  newspaper  in  one  of  two  ways.  He  could  offer  Ms  ser- 
vices to  the  followers  of  John  Quincy  Adams  or  he  could 
join  the  liberal  insurgents  in  the  administration  party  who 
were  chafing  under  the  leadership  of  Boston  "nabobs''  and 
contemplating  a  new  political  party.  In  all  the  confusion  of 
shif ting  party  alignments  one  fact  was  clear  —  the  old  Federal- 
ist Party  was  dead.  To  ignore  its  demise  was  to  indulge  in 


44 


THE  LIBERATOR:    WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 


fantasies;  to  attempt  to  perpetuate  the  ideals  and  aspirations 
of  the  Essex  Junto  was  to  court  political  suicide.  Yet  Lloyd 
Garrison,  neglecting  the  example  of  wiser  men,  determined 
to  hold  fast  to  the  spirit  of  Fisher  Ames,  lie  would  rake  the 
ashes  of  sectionalism  until,  phoenix-like,  the  Party  of  the 
Wise  and  the  Good  rose  again  in  all  its  pristine  glory. 

He  opened  his  revival  by  presenting  Massachusetts*  war 
claims  to  the  national  government,  a  shopworn  Federalist 
article  that  had  been  retailed  without  success  in  Washington 
for  ten  years.  The  Old  Colony,  he  admitted,  would  no  longer 
threaten  secession;  but  it  was  folly  to  deny  that  her  confi- 
dence had  been  weakened  —  "that  her  faith  in  the  integrity 
of  government  has  become  speculative;  that  her  rights  have 
been  invaded;  and,  finally,  that  she  feels  deeply  and  sensibly 
the  glaring  insult  to  her  character."*0  The  citizens  of  New- 
buryport  expressed  their  indifference  to  the  question  of  their 
integrity  by  canceling  their  subscriptions.  In  three  weeks* 
time  he  had  purged  his  list  of  all  but  a  few  stanch  Federalists, 
Undismayed  by  this  wholesale  desertion,  he  fired  off  an 
editorial  at  the  defectors  accusing  them  of  plotting  against 
freedom  of  the  press*  "The  gag  shall  be  applied  only  when 
we  are  helpless,"  he  declared.21 

His  editorials  showed  only  a  meager  understanding  of 
American  politics*  With  his  propensity  for  hero-worship  he 
idealized  the  system  as  a  machine  originally  designed  to 
produce  the  great  man  but  badly  operated  by  scheming 
politicians  for  their  own  corrupt  purposes.  Compromise  — 
politics  as  the  art  of  the  possible  —  he  could  not  understand* 
The  more  he  studied  politics  the  more  convinced  he  became 
of  its  utter  wrongfulness.  There  was  something  vicious  about 
backstairs  conferences,  secret  bargains  and  haggling  over 
votes.  Even  party  organization  seemed  sinister.  Political 
decisions,  he  felt,  ought  to  be  made  openly  in  public  view  by 


THE  YOUNG  CONSERVATIVE  45 

upright  men  with  correct  principles,  and  parties  should  func- 
tion as  open  markets  for  moral  axioms.  In  the  public  arena, 
in  full  view  of  the  citizenry,  the  great  man  would  emerge  and, 
using  the  force  of  his  superior  judgment,  rise  to  immediate 
leadership.  The  fate  of  American  democracy,  he  concluded, 
hinged  on  its  use  of  such  leadership. 

Garrison  distrusted  politics  not  simply  because  he  feared 
power  but  because  he  wanted  it.  Although  he  showed  few 
of  the  outward  signs  of  a  child  of  adversity,  he  hungered 
for  recognition.  His  father  had  been  a  ne'er-do-well.  He  had 
a  drunkard  for  a  brother.  His  mother  had  died  an  abandoned 
and  bitter  woman.  He  had  been  denied  an  education  and  a 
chance  to  enter  a  profession.  If  it  took  perseverance  to  make 
himself  known,  he  had  plenty  of  that.  As  he  looked  about 
him  at  the  giants  of  New  England  —  Daniel  Webster,  Harri- 
son  Gray  Otis,  Lyman  Beecher  —  he  gathered  that  character 
was  the  key  to  success.  All  of  his  idols  were  public  figures 
with  powerful  personalities  that  lifted  them  above  the  crowd. 
Webster's  beetled  brows  and  flashing  eyes  matched  the 
thunderous  tones  of  his  speeches  and  lent  personal  force  to 
the  grandeur  of  his  American  dream.  Lyman  Beecher,  the 
emblem  of  Puritan  righteousness,  hammered  his  pulpit  as  if  it 
were  an  anvil  striking  sparks  of  divine  zeal  Harrison  Gray 
Otis,  another  of  the  New  England  titans,  also  used  the  spoken 
word  to  advertise  his  genius.  All  three  of  Garrison's  heroes 
were  spellbinders  who  inspired  awe  by  the  sheer  force  of  their 
personalities.  It  seemed  to  him  that  the  secret  of  their  power 
lay  in  a  union  of  virtue  and  strength.  Ironically,  all  three 
would  soon  disillusion  him  by  disclosing  the  very  lack  of 
moral  fiber  he  credited  them  with.  Meanwhile  the  editor 
of  the  Free  Press  decided  to  follow  their  example  and  cast 
himself  into  a  role  which  would  give  full  play  to  his  driving 
ambition. 


THE  LIBERATOR: 


Thus  personalities  rather  than  politics  determined  the 
course  of  the  Free  Press.  Without  a  sturdy  political  platform 

Garrison  could  only  stand  on  the  conviction  that  controversy 
would  sell  newspapers  and  earn  him  a  reputation  as  a  crusader 
for  truth.  He  perfected  a  high  moral  tone  and  studied  abuse, 
dubbing  Henry  Clay  "our  immaculate  Secretary  of  State** 
and  William  B.  Giles  a  "jewel  in  the  tarnished  crown  of 
the  Old  Dominion."  Rival  editors  he  dismissed  as  political 
brawlers  and  mountebanks,  political  opponents  as  insignifi- 
cant politicians  with  paltry  artifices.  Soon  this  calculated 
belligerence  provoked  a  quarrel,  and  significantly,  his  first 
editorial  dispute  involved  his  benefactor  and  now  rival  editor, 
Ephraim  Allen* 

When  Jefferson  and  Adams  died  on  the  fiftieth  anniversary 
of  the  signing  of  the  Declaration  of  Independence,  Allen 
treated  his  readers  to  a  panegyric.  Garrison  decided  to  catch 
his  former  employer  out.  The  editor  of  the  Herald  9  he  com- 
plained, was  guilty  of  indecorum  and  language  both  rhapsodi- 
cal and  offensive,  since  everyone  knew  that  Jefferson's  deist 
views  inculcated  a  loose  morality.  Allen  countered  with  a 
reminder  of  his  rival's  youth  and  inexperience  and  recom- 
mended a  more  charitable  tone.  This  "mock  dignity1*  was 
too  much  for  the  thin-skinned  Garrison,  who  let  loose  a  volley 
of  invective  at  Allen: 


He  has  flattered  himself  too  highly  to  imagine  that  we  are  am- 
bitious of  breaking  a  lance  with  him.  We  shall  look  for  a  better 
antagonist  Here,  the  victory  would  not  be  the  equivalent  to  our 

condescension.  —  We  disclaim  having  made,  at  the  beginning,  any 
^attack'  —  he  alone  has  provoked  it  But  in  our  plenitude,  we  have 
already  been  too  prodigal  of  favors.  Every  word,  which  we  have 
bestowed  upon  the  caterer  for  the  Herald,  has  conic  from  m  with 


THE  YOUNG  CONSERVATIVE  47 

the  same  reluctance  that  we  should  sacrifice  so  many  U.S.  Bank- 
notes. He  has  therefore  the  sum  of  our  generosity.22 

If  he  hazarded  Allen's  friendship  in  his  haste  to  get  ahead, 

he  gained  two  new  friends  at  this  time  in  John  Greenleaf 

Whittier  and  William  Ladd.  Whittier  and  Ladd  were  har- 
bingers of  a  season  of  Christian  reform  that  came  to  New- 
buryport  in  the  spring  of  1826.  They  represented  a  kind  of 
religious  zeal  which  was  new  to  Garrison,  and  their  ideas 
led  him  to  the  doorstep  of  the  evangelical  reform  movement. 
The  story  of  his  discovery  of  Whittier  and  his  part  in  estab- 
lishing him  as  a  poet  was  one  Garrison  never  tired  of  telling. 

One  morning  in  the  late  spring  of  1826  he  entered  his  office 
to  find  slipped  under  the  door  a  letter  from  HaverhiU  written 
in  violet  ink  in  a  spidery  feminine  hand.  Enclosed  he  found 
a  poem,  "The  Exile's  Departure,"  signed  "W,"  which  Whit- 
tier's  eighteen-year-old  sister  had  secretly  copied  and  sent  to 
Garrison  for  his  comments.  Garrison  fancied  himself  a  critic 
of  discernment  as  well  as  a  poet,  and  he  took  great  pride 
in  the  literary  column  of  his  paper.  His  aesthetic  creed,  drawn 
from  the  precepts  of  New  England  thcocrats,  was  both  rigid 
and  narrow.  He  demanded  subjects  selected  with  "skill  and 
judgment,"  poetic  themes  spotlessly  pure,  "lofty  emotion" 
and  "deep  pathos,"  verse  heavily  freighted  with  "that  darling 
figure,"  personification.  The  reigning  queen,  of  Garrison's 
world  of  fancy  was  Mrs,  Felicia  Hemans,  that  "wonderful  and 
extraordinary  woman,"  whose  syrupy  concoctions  blended 
chaste  passion  and  female  virtue  in  just  the  right  proportions. 
He  commended  her  works  to  his  readers  with  the  assurance 
that  they  would  find  them  "pure  as  the  cloudless  skies  of  an 
Italian  summer/'  Whittier's  poem,  which  drew  heavily  on  this 
sentimental  tradition,  met  every  test  in  the  Garrisonian  canon* 
He  printed  it  in  his  next  issue  accompanied  by  the  following 


43  THE  k*BERAT°K|  J^ 

Invitation:  "If  *W/  at  Haverhill,  will  continue  to  favor  us 
with  pieces  beautiful  as  the  one  inserted  in  our  poetical  depart- 
ment for  to-day,  we  shall  esteem  it  a  favor."23 

Once  he  learned  the  young  poet's  identity,  he  wanted  to 
meet  him.  He  hired  a  buggy  and,  accompanied  by  a  young 
lady,  drove  to  the  Whittier  farm  and  introduced  himself. 
Whittier,  he  remembered,  entered  the  parlor  "with  shrinking 
diffidence,  almost  unable  to  speak,  and  blushing  like  a 
maiden."24  Warming  to  his  role  of  patron,  Garrison  gave  him 
fatherly  encouragement  and  lectured  his  parents  on  the  need 
to  cultivate  genius.  "We  endeavored  to  speak  chceringly  of 
the  prospects  of  their  son,"  he  later  explained,  "we  dwelt  upon 
the  impolicy  of  warring  against  nature,  of  striving  to  quench 
the  first  kindlings  of  a  flame  which  might  bum  like  a  star  in 
our  literary  horizon  —  and  we  spoke  too  of  fame."  Whatever 
the  effects  of  this  harangue  on  the  taciturn  John  Whittier, 
his  son  responded  to  Garrison's  encouragement  by  sending 
him  sixteen  more  poems,  all  of  which  he  published* 

Whittier  set  Garrison  thinking.  In  these  poems  Whittier 
was  beginning  to  give  artistic  form  to  his  Quaker  beliefs. 
The  poems  developed  the  themes  of  the  inner  light,  renuncia- 
tion of  pride,  and  service  to  Christ,  not  as  mystical  visions 
of  another  world  but  as  practical  guides  to  action*  This  piety 
and  quiet  intensity  challenged  Garrison  to  examine  his  ideas* 
Whittier's  faith  in  the  goodness  of  men  —  his  passionate  con- 
viction that  God  dwells  in  every  soul  —  conflicted  sharply 
with  Garrison's  orthodox  persuasions.  Fanny  Garrison's  God 
had  been  a  stern  and  righteous  judge  of  human  sin,  and  her 
son  grew  to  manhood  secure  in  the  belief  in  innate  depravity 
and  original  sin,  the  atoning  blood  of  Christ,  and  the  divinity 
of  the  Sabbath,  His  conservative  political  bias  was  reinforced 
by  the  conviction  acquired  from  the  New  England  clergy 
that  only  the  moral  force  of  orthodoxy  could  save  a  demo- 


THE  YOUNG  CONSERVATIVE  49 

cratic  people  from  drifting  into  atheism  and  degeneracy. 
The  Free  Press  joined  in  denouncing  the  cardinal  American 
sins  of  Sabbath-breaking,  free  thought,  dueling,  prostitution, 
theater-going,  and  tippling.  By  the  time  he  met  Whittier  his 
religious  sentiments  had  hardened  into  a  joyless  and  militant 
puritanism. 

Whittier's  poetry  revealed  a  militancy  of  a  different  sort, 
a  sympathy  for  the  downtrodden  that  Garrison  had  yet  to 
experience.  His  poems  denounced  war  and  violence,  con- 
demned wealth  and  fame  as  "mad'ning  zeal"  and  "earthly 
pride."  His  Quaker  prophecy  of  a  world  of  endless  bloom 
"far  beyond  the  reach  of  time"  suddenly  seemed  more  appeal- 
ing than  Fanny's  dire  predictions.  If  Whittier's  practical 
simplicity  still  eluded  Garrison,  he  understood  his  young 
friend's  appeal  to  conscience  and  was  touched  by  it.  Whit- 
tier  showed  him  that  a  Christian  life  was  not  an  impossibility. 
Temperamental  opposites  they  certainly  were;  Whittier,  shy, 
painfully  self-conscious,  introspective;  Garrison,  ebullient 
and  aggressive.  Yet  each  possessed  a  moral  ardor  that  the 
other  recognized  and  respected.  Whittier  became  firmly  at- 
tached to  his  benefactor  and  followed  him  into  the  anti- 
slavery  camp  in  1833-  Although  he  grew  increasingly  critical 
of  Garrison's  aims  and  methods  thereafter  and  finally  broke 
with  him  altogether,  he  continued  to  defend  him  against 
critics  long  after  their  close  friendship  died.  In  him  Garrison 
found  that  rarity  among  reformers  —  a  man  as  dedicated  and 
strong-willed  as  himself  with  whom  he  could  not  quarrel 

Soon  after  his  meeting  with  Whittier  he  discovered  William 
Ladd,  the  Yankee  pacifist  and  founder  of  the  American  Peace 
Society,  whose  visit  to  Newburyport  in  the  summer  of  1826 
launched  him  on  his  career  of  Christian  reform.  The  handful 
of  parishioners  who  gathered  in  the  Congregational  Meeting- 
House  in  Newburyport  on  a  June  evening  in  1826  expecting 


5°  THE 


another  pious  sermon  on  the  "peace  question"  found  William 
Ladd  something  of  an  anomaly.  A  huge  mountain  of  a  man, 
carelessly  dressed,  with  an  easygoing  manner  that  belied  his 

enormous  energy,  Ladd  was  no  religious  ascetic  but  a  retired 
sea  captain  with  a  Falstaffian  wit.  To  Garrison,  who  listened 
carefully  as  Ladd  took  the  measure  of  his  subject  in  the  salty 
phrases  of  a  seaman,  he  seemed  a  huge  compound  of  fat,  good 

nature  a»d  benevolence.  Who  was  this  strange  man  whose 
earthy  humor  carried  a  Christian  message? 

William  Ladd  was  one  of  the  legendary  race  of  Yankees  in 
whom  there  mingled  freely  the  shrewdness  of  a  Down  East 
peddler  and  the  visionary  zeal  of  a  crank*  He  was  born  just 
before  the  Revolution,  in  Portsmouth,  New  Hampshire,  the 
son  of  a  well-to-do  merchant.  In  1797  he  graduated  from 
Harvard  and  then  shipped  aboard  one  of  his  father's  merchant- 
men for  a  year*  In  1806  he  returned  to  the  sea,  this  time  as 
supercargo  on  the  Negro  sloop  captained  by  the  famous  Paul 
Coffee,,  in  order  to  study  the  Negro  character.  Then,  sick  of 
the  sea  and  dissatisfied  with  his  aimless  life,  he  retired  to  his 
father's  farm  in  Minot,  Maine,  where  he  discovered  for  the 
first  time  "that  Name  which  is  above  every  name/*  became 
converted  and  joined  the  church.  Henceforth  his  life  was 
given  over  to  experiments  in  scientific  farming  and  conducting 
evangelical  forays  among  his  neighbors* 

Ladd  discovered  the  peace  cause  at  the  bedside  of  the 
Revemid  Jesse  Appleton,  president  of  Bowdoin  College  and 
a  founder  of  the  Massachusetts  Peace  Society.  Appleton  gave 
him  Noah  Worcester's  Solemn  Rewe*w  of  the  Custom  of  War 
to  study;  and  a  quick  perusal  of  the  tract  convinced  Ladd 
that  finally,  at  the  age  of  forty-one,  he  had  found  a  way  to 
be  useful.  In  1826  he  was  tramping  all  over  New  England 
lecturing  wherever  he  could  find  a  hall  and  collect  an  audi- 
ence. Like  the  rest  of  the  reformers  who  were  soon  to  claim 


THE  YOUNG  CONSERVATIVE  5! 

Garrison's  attention,  he  preached  instant  repentance  and  total 
dedication.  "He  who  does  not  give  his  prayers,  his  influence, 
his  talents,  and,  if  necessary,  his  purse,"  he  told  his  Newtrary- 
port  listeners,  "fails  in  his  duty  as  a  Christian  and  a  man." 
Garrison  was  struck  by  this  plain  reasoning.  Here  in  the 
person  of  a  rustic  reformer  was  a  vital  religious  force  that 
could  change  the  world.  Ladd's  argument  was  simple  and 
practical  Americans  were  politically  free  —  why  could  they 
not  become  morally  free?  Cleanse  America  of  evil  by  convert- 
ing the  sinner  to  righteousness,  the  warmonger  to  a  man  of 
peace.  Bring  him  to  Christ,  show  him  the  error  of  his  ways, 
give  him  salvation  as  a  cure.  What  this  homely  Yankee  pro- 
posed, Garrison  suddenly  realized,  was  a  blueprint  of  the  per- 
fect society.  In  Ladd's  proposition  lay  the  seeds  of  a  great 
Christian  movement. 

Enthusiastically  he  reported  Ladd's  speech  in  his  paper.  No 
one,  he  wrote,  could  doubt  that  the  pacifist  was  destined  to 
prove  the  foremost  philanthropist  of  his  age,  a  man  of  "noble 
efforts."25  Thus  began  a  friendship  which  despite  prolonged 
and  bitter  disagreement  lasted  until  Ladd's  death  in  1841. 
Ladd,  like  Whittier,  was  too  sure  of  his  cause  and  too  amiably 
disposed  toward  mankind  to  harbor  grudges.  He  remained  to 
the  last  a  man  of  peace  who  practiced  what  he  preached. 

In  September  the  Free  frets  collapsed  tinder  the  weight  of 
its  editor's  unpopular  opinions,  and  Garrison  found  himself  in 
financial  straits.  There  was  nothing  left  but  to  cut  his  losses 
by  selling  the  paper  and  seek  work  as  a  journeyman,  printer 
in  Boston.  He  announced  that  "influenced  by  considerations 
important  only  to  himself,"  the  editor  had  decided  to  offer 
his  entire  establishment  for  quick  sale.  In  a  valedictory  naore 
caustic  than  his  usual  tone  he  announced  the  sale  of  the  paper 
to  one  John  Harris.  He  admitted  that  the  Free  fnsf  had 
startled  many  readers,  offended  others,  "This  is  a  tij 


52  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

age  and  he  who  attempts  to  walk  uprightly  and  speak  hon- 
estly, cannot  rationally  calculate  upon  speedy  wealth  or  pre- 
ferment."26 He  confessed  to  no  regrets  and  made  no  apologies. 
His  conscience  was  clear. 

Failure  could  not  dull  the  excitement  of  new  ideas,  Ncw- 
buryport  hardly  qualified  as  a  sink  of  corruption,  but  his 
certainty  of  having  been  victimized  by  its  cliques  and  cabals 
made  his  departure  seem  less  of  a  retreat.  Now  that  lie  was 
setting  out  for  Boston  it  simplified  his  mistakes  to  explain  them 
as  the  work  of  a  petty  conspiracy  against  his  good  name.  Such 
was  his  mood  when  he  plunged  into  a  last  squabble,  as  if  to 
show  his  fellow  townsmen  that  nothing  became  his  life  in  the 
town  like  leaving  it.  This  time  his  victim  was  Caleb  Gushing, 

Since  leaving  the  Herald  Gushing  had  divided  his  time  be- 
tween literature  and  politics.  His  popularity  with  the  manu- 
facturers of  the  Merrimack  Valley  led  to  his  nomination  for 
the  Congressional  seat  for  Essex  County  against  the  incumbent 
John  Varnum  of  HaverhilL  The  campaign  reached  new 
heights  of  personal  animosity:  Gushing  was  accused  of  loose 
morals  and  Varnum  was  denounced  for  alleged  shady  dealings 
with  the  Junto.  Garrison,  apprised  of  Cushing's  views  on  the 
tariff,  remained  loyal  to  the  old  Federalist  principles  and  sup- 
ported Varnum  against  Cushing's  "coalition  of  interests  and 
family  influence."27  Yet  when  he  announced  the  sale  of  the 
Free  Press  to  Harris,  who  was  a  close  friend  of  Cushing's,  and 
Harris  promptly  came  out  for  his  friend,  rumors  circulated 
concerning  a  deal  between  young  Garrison  and  the  wily 
Gushing,  As  soon  as  Garrison  learned  of  the  rumors  he  rushed 
to  the  attack.  First  he  fired  off  a  letter  to  the  Hawrhill  Ga- 
zette, Varnum's  sheet  and  the  source  of  the  story,  denying  the 
accusation  and  offering  as  proof  of  his  fidelity  to  Federalism 
a  six-month  record  unblemished  by  even  a  hint  of  Republican 
heresy.  Then,  still  smarting  at  the  injustice,  he  marched  into 


THE  YOUNG  CONSERVATIVE  53 

a  Gushing  rally,  strode  to  the  platform,  and  delivered  a  tirade 
against  his  former  friend  accusing  him  of  cowardice  and  the 
intent  to  deceive.  Gushing  lost  the  election  by  a  wide  margin, 
and  neither  man  ever  forgave  the  other.  For  his  part  Gushing 
grew  convinced  of  his  protege's  dangerous  fanaticism,  while 
Garrison,  once  he  became  an  abolitionist,  denounced  Gushing 
for  every  sin  he  could  think  of. 

In  December,  1826,  Garrison  left  for  Boston,  an  unem- 
ployed journalist  with  six  months'  stormy  experience.  Not 
until  after  the  Civil  War  did  he  enjoy  his  return  visits  to 
Newburyport.  During  the  lean  anti-slavery  years  ahead  he 
explained  his  dislike  of  the  town  as  a  product  of  its  conserva- 
tive opposition  to  his  cause.  A  better  reason  perhaps  was  that 
it  had  witnessed  his  first  failure. 


Boston 


To  THE  YOUNG  PROVINCIAL  from  Newburyport,  Boston 
seemed  vast  and  forbidding  in  the  cold  gray  light 
of  December,  1826.  Hurrying  through  crooked  streets  to  his 
boardinghouse  in  the  North  End,  he  remembered  earlier  visits 
to  the  city.  Once  on  an  errand  to  a  printing  house  near  the 
waterfront  he  had  lost  his  way  and  wandered  for  hours 
through  these  same  winding  streets  homesick  and  frightened, 
A  second  trip  the  previous  summer  had  also  ended  unhappily 
when  his  twenty-mile  hike  in  new  shoes  left  him  so  crippled 
with  blisters  and  aching  feet  that  he  rushed  to  catch  the  first 
stage  home.  Now  he  was  back  a  third  time,  not  the  successful 
young  journalist  he  fancied  himself  but  a  lowly  journeyman 
printer  seeking  a  second  chance* 

Formidable  as  it  may  have  appeared  to  him,  Boston  in  1826 
was  a  small  city  of  some  fifty  thousand  people  which  still 
wore  its  colonial  heritage  with  pride.  Mayor  Josiah  Quincy 
with  the  blessing  of  Boston's  first  families  was  just  beginning 
to  modernize  the  city,  paving  the  streets,  building  a  new  city 
market,  and  providing  police  and  fire  protection.  Lloyd  Gar- 
rison caught  the  unmistakable  air  of  paternalism  blowing 
down  from  Beacon  Hill,  where  merchant  families  preserved 
their  conservative  opinions  as  carefully  as  their  fortunes. 

Wealthy  Bostonians,  he  knew,  were  as  fully  aware  of  their 


BOSTON 55 

duty  to  lead  the  civilization  of  the  country  as  the  High  Street 
gentlemen  of  Newburyport  By  the  middle  of  the  third  decade 
of  the  nineteenth  century  they  had  settled  to  the  task  and  were 
enjoying  what  the  good  Dr.  Bowditch  called  "the  best  days  of 
the  Republic."  Secure  in  their  beliefs,  conservative  Bostonians 
applauded  the  sentiments  of  Daniel  Webster,  discussed  the 
sermons  of  William  Ellery  Channing,  and  kept  a  sharp  eye  on 
the  earnings  of  A.  &  A.  Lawrence  &  Company.  In  the  "un- 
adorned good  sense"  of  Unitarianism  and  the  North  American 
Review  they  found  a  metaphysic  for  their  Whiggery. 

That  wealth  and  position  carried  responsibilities  towards 
their  less  fortunate  townsmen,  the  leading  families  of  Boston 
never  doubted.  Most  of  the  city's  social  services  were  furn- 
ished by  private  charity*  Many  a  Sunday  afternoon  Garrison 
strolled  through  the  Common  to  the  strains  of  a  brass  band 
hired  by  the  Society  for  the  Suppression  of  Vice  in  the  vain 
hope  of  emptying  the  grogshops.  Wives  and  daughters  of 
leading  citizens  devoted  leisure  hours  to  such  benevolent  so- 
cieties as  the  Boston  Fatherless  and  Widow's  Society  and  the 
Penitent  Female  Refuge*  By  the  time  Lloyd  Garrison  arrived, 
charitable  associations  had  become  a  habit  with  Boston's  well- 
to-do:  between  1810  and  1840  they  averaged  at  least  one  new 
benevolent  institution  a  year,  most  of  them  founded  for  the 
dual  purpose  of  attending  to  the  needy  and  repairing  public 
morals.  The  logic  of  Boston  paternalism  posited  social  control 
as  well  as  Christian  charity,  and  the  art  of  using  their  wealth 
wisely  was  one  which  these  families  had  fully  mastered. 

It  was  not  to  the  Boston  of  Beacon  Hill  or  to  the  fashion- 
able West  End  that  Garrison  went  on  his  arrival,  but  to  the 
Scott  Street  boardinghouse  of  his  friend  Thomas  Bennett, 
himself  a  newcomer  from  the  'Port.  Bennett's  boardinghouse 
lay  in  the  heart  of  another  and  different  society  of  the  middle 
classes.  This  was  the  Boston  Emerson  meant  when  he  spoke 


56  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRLSON 

of  the  city  as  a  moving  principle,  "a  living  mind,  agitating  the 
mass  and  always  afflicting  the  conservative  class  with  some 
odious  novelty  or  other."  Middle-class  Boston  consisted  of 
professional  people,  small  merchants,  artisans,  and  shopkeep- 
ers, many  of  them,  like  Garrison,  recent  arrivals  from  Essex 
North  and  the  Old  Colony.  They  brought  with  them  a  sea- 
board conservatism  and  social  aspirations  which  they  shared 
with  the  patricians,  but  they  wore  their  conservatism  with  a 
difference.  In  the  first  place,  they  disliked  the  proprietary 
manner  of  the  old  families  and  resented  their  institutionalized 
snobbery.  Coming  from  country  strongholds  of  orthodoxy, 
they  mistrusted  the  "icy  system"  of  Unitarianism  with  its  cool 
lucidities  that  replaced  the  majesty  of  God  with  the  tricks  of 
human  reason.  The  benevolence  of  the  Boston  merchants 
stemmed  from  a  recognition  of  their  declining  political  power, 
while  the  religious  impulse  of  middle-class  Boston  sprang  from 
the  rocky  soil  of  Christian  zeal 

Garrison's  orthodox  friends  in  his  adopted  city  assumed 
that  only  Christianity  could  save  the  nation  from  infidelity 
and  licentiousness.  They  viewed  the  renovation  of  American 
morals  as  a  crusade  which  could  never  be  won  by  local  con- 
tingents of  philanthropists  dispensing  charity  and  advice  but 
demanded  a  revolutionary  army  organized  into  missionary, 
tract,  and  Bible  societies  captained  by  the  great  religious  lead- 
ers of  the  day.  One  of  these  leaders  was  their  own  Lyman 
Beecher,  recently  made  pastor  of  the  Hanover  Street  Church* 
If  the  spiritual  center  of  Unitarian  Boston  was  Channing's 
Federal  Street  congregation,  evangelical  Boston  made  its 
headquarters  in  the  home  of  Lyman  Beecher  in  the  North 
End  next  to  the  old  burying  ground  on  Copp's  HiU,  whither 
he  was  known  frequently  to  retire  to  pray  for  those  whose 
feet  stumbled  on  the  dark  mountain.  Hanover  Street  Church 
became  Garrison's  spiritual  home  and  Beecher  Ms  mentor. 


BOSTON 57 

Beecher  had  also  come  to  Boston  in  1826  In  response  to  a 
challenge.  As  an  organizer  and  what  another  age  would  call 
a  public-relations  expert  he  had  few  peers.  Earlier  he  had 
organized  the  Connecticut  Society  for  the  Reformation  of 
Morals  to  protect  the  Standing  Order  against  "Sabbath-break- 
ers, rum-sellers,  tippling  folk,  infidels,  and  ruff-scuff"  who 
made  up  the  ranks  of  democracy.  He  wrote  tracts,  held  re- 
vivals, established  a  magazine,  lectured  on  temperance,  lobbied 
for  Sunday  blue  laws,  and  fought  manfully  to  preserve  the 
establishment  at  every  turn.  When  he  finally  lost  the  battle 
against  disestablishment  in  Connecticut  in  1817,  he  admitted 
that  "it  was  as  dark  a  day  as  ever  I  saw/'1  Presently,  however, 
he  saw  the  light:  far  from  destroying  Christian  order,  dis- 
establishment had  actually  strengthened  it  by  cutting  the 
churches  loose  from  state  support.  With  missions,  revivals, 
and  voluntary  associations  Christians  could  exert  a  far  stronger 
influence  than  ever  they  could  with  shoe  buckles,  cocked  hats, 
and  gold-headed  canes.  To  prove  his  point  Beecher  threw 
himself  into  the  work  of  Christian  reform,  fashioning  Bible 
and  tract  societies,  supporting  home  missions,  the  temperance 
cause  and  all  the  other  benevolent  associations  which  sprang 
up  in  the  East  after  1812.  Under  his  aegis  these  vast  inter- 
denominational societies  formed  a  benevolent  empire  run  by 
an  interlocking  directorate  of  lay  and  clerical  figures  whose 
avowed  aim  was  the  engineering  of  mass  American  consent  to 
Christian  leadership. 

As  the  democratization  of  American  church  polity  pro- 
ceeded apace,  the  need  for  a  major  theological  reorientarion 
grew  urgent.  This  need  Beecher  and  his  old  Yale  classmate, 
Nathaniel  Taylor,  attempted  to  meet  with  a  doctrine  of  their 
own.  "Beechemm,"  or  "Taylorism"  as  it  was  more  com- 
monly called,  took  for  its  central  theme  the  primacy  of 
reason  over  the  letter  of  revelation.  Men  are  punished  for 


58  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

their  sins,  Beecher  and  Taylor  argued,  only  because  they 
freely  and  willingly  choose  to  sin.  Without  free  agency  there 
could  be  no  sinful  act;  men  are  truly  free  agents.  Saving  grace 
lies  within  the  reach  of  any  man  who  will  but  try  to  come  to 
Christ.  Sin  is  selfishness,  and  regeneration  simply  the  act  of 
will  which  consists  of  the  preference  of  God  to  every  other 
object,  that  act  being  the  effect  of  the  Holy  Spirit  operating 
on  the  mind.  "Whosoever  will  may  come"  —  this  was  the  real 
import  of  their  new  doctrine  which  furnished  the  rationale 
for  the  revivals  and  the  benevolent  crusade  of  the  Second 
Great  Awakening.  In  Beecher's  new  formula  piety  and  ethics, 
severed  in  the  First  Great  Awakening,  were  reunited  in  a 
democratic  evangelical  puritanism, 

Beecher's  connection  with  this  theology  was  not  always 
clear  or  consistent.  Taylor  was  a  speculative  thinker  and  a 
reformer;  Beecher  was  neither.  Deep  down  in  his  soul  he  was 
a  trimmer,  and  he  refused  to  jeopardize  his  plans  for  a  great 
American  church  by  getting  embroiled  in  doctrinal  dispute* 
In  1826,  however,  when  Garrison  first  heard  him  preach,  he 
stood  foursquare  behind  the  new  theology  for  which  he 
claimed  partial  credit.  More  important,  he  brought  to  Boston 
an  experience  in  organizing  religious  enterprises  which  few 
of  his  colleagues  could  match*  Once  established  in  Hanover 
Street,  he  inaugurated  a  series  of  revivals,  using  a  new  "soft 
persuasion"  adapted  to  city  congregations.  It  was  not  long 
before  he  noticed  that  the  evangelical  people  of  Boston  lacked 
political  influence.  Quickly  he  organized  the  Hanover  Associ- 
ation of  Young  Men  and  sent  its  members  into  the  city  pri- 
maries with  instructions  to  outvote  the  "smoking  loafers,"  re- 
move the  liquor  booths  from  the  Common,  and  stop  the 
Sunday  steamboat  excursions  to  Nahant,  This  they  promptly 
did,  and  soon  Beecher  was  a  commanding  figure  in  Boston 
society. 


BOSTON  59 

To  Garrison,  who  went  regularly  to  hear  him  preach,  there 
seemed  something  majestic  in  this  stocky  figure  with  his  un- 
tidy robes  flying  behind  him  as  he  strode  to  the  pulpit  to  do 
battle  for  the  Lord,  Beecher  was  a  dynamo.  Both  the  muscu- 
larity of  his  sermons  and  his  devotion  to  the  strenuous  life 
revealed  a  man  of  prodigious  energy,  impatient  of  all  restraint 
and  aching  to  get  on  with  the  business  of  Christianizing  the 
country.  His  conversation  abounded  in  military  figures  — 
plans  of  battle,  shot  and  shell,  victorious  charges,  and  routing 
the  enemy.  Beecher  had  the  kind  of  Christian  belligerence 
which  young  Garrison  understood.  "As  a  divine,"  he  noted 
enthusiastically,  "Lyman  Beecher  has  no  equal."  What  was 
it  that  gave  Beecher  his  strength?  "Truth  —  TRUTH  —  de- 
livered in  a  childlike  simplicity  and  affection."2  Sitting  in  the 
back  pews  of  Hanover  Street  Church,  Garrison  did  not  realize 
yet  the  full  import  of  Beecher's  message  or  the  lengths  to 
which  it  would  carry  him.  He  only  knew  that  Beecher  offered 
revealed  religion  as  a  guide;  but  for  a  young  man  intent  on 
directing  the  lives  of  other  people  that  was  enough. 

More  than  a  month  went  by  before  he  found  work.  The 
next  year  he  spent  migrating  from  one  printing  job  to  an- 
other before  joining  the  Massachusetts  Weekly  Journal,  a 
new  Whig  paper  edited  by  David  Lee  Child.  In  his  leisure  he 
surveyed  his  adopted  city,  strolling  through  Beacon  Hill,  ex- 
ploring the  wharves,  and  standing  with  the  crowd  on  the 
Common  to  watch  the  militia  march  on  training  days*  He 
went  to  hear  Beecher's  archenemies,  Channing  and  John  Pier- 
pont, the  flinty  pastor  of  the  Hollis  Street  Unitarian  Church 
and  grandfather  of  J,  Pierpont  Morgan,  Much  as  he  disap- 
proved of  the  "icy  system,"  he  was  impressed  with  Channing's 
low-keyed  sermons,  and  from  Pierpont  he  learned  that  works 
were  more  important  than  doctrine.  Slowly  Boston  cosmo- 


6o  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

politanism  began  to  tell,  and  a  new  note  of  sophistication  ap- 
peared in  the  verses  he  scribbled  off  for  his  own  amusement* 

I  think  if  our  first  parents  had  been  driven 
From  Paradise  to  Boston,  their  deep  woe 

Had  lost  its  keenness  —  no  place  under  heaven 
For  worth  of  loveliness,  had  pleased  them  so; 

Particularly  if  they  had  resided 

In  that  fine  house  for  David  Sears  provided.3 

His  hunger  for  recognition  was  partially  assuaged  by  an 
incident  in  the  summer  of  1817.  When  Daniel  Webster  moved 
up  to  the  Senate,  he  left  a  vacancy  in  the  House  of  Repre- 
sentatives. A  party  caucus  duly  assembled  in  July  and  was 
presented  with  the  candidate  of  the  Central  Committee, 
Benjamin  Gorham.  Gotham's  nomination  was  just  about  to 
be  put  to  a  vote  when  out  of  the  audience  and  onto  the  plat- 
form strode  Garrison,  primed  with  a  lengthy  speech  in  sup- 
port of  his  perennial  favorite,  Harrison  Gray  Otis.  The  Cen- 
tral Committee  had  already  rejected  Otis  because  of  his 
antiquated  views  on  the  tariff,  but  when  Garrison  launched 
his  panegyric,  it  was  clear  that  the  action  of  the  committee 
had  been  premature.  An  acid  reminder  from  the  chairman 
that  he  was  out  of  order  failed  to  dampen  the  enthusiasm  of 
the  fledgling  orator,  who  was  beginning  to  enjoy  himself. 
Unfortunately,  halfway  through  his  oration  his  memory 
failed  him  and  he  had  to  take  recourse  to  a  copy  of  the 
speech  tucked  in  his  hat.  Still,  when  he  finished  and  returned 
to  his  seat,  he  found  that  he  had  upset  the  carefully  laid  plans 
of  the  steering  committee,  who  decided  to  consult  Otis  once 
more.  He  left  the  meeting  in  triumph.  A  few  days  later  one 
of  the  Federalist  gentlemen  who  had  attended  the  caucus 
wrote  a  letter  to  the  Courier  demanding  to  know  the  name 


BOSTON 6l 

of  the  young  upstart  who  had  disrupted  the  proceedings. 
In  his  reply  Garrison  sympathized  with  his  critic  for  the 
trouble  he  had  experienced  in  learning  his  name.  "Let  me  as- 
sure him,  however,  that  if  my  life  be  spared,  my  name  shall 
one  day  be  known  to  the  world,  —  at  least  to  such  an  extent 
that  common  inquiry  shall  be  unnecessary.  This,  I  know, 
will  be  deemed  excessive  vanity  — but  time  shall  prove  it 
prophetic."4 

The  editorial  opportunity  he  sought  came  in  the  person  of 
the  Reverend  William  Collier,  who  ran  a  boardinghouse  on 
Milk  Street.  Collier  was  a  Baptist  city  missionary  and  the 
editor  of  a  struggling  temperance  newspaper,  the  National 
Philanthropist,  His  boardinghouse  served  as  a  haven  for  mis- 
sionaries, visiting  clergymen,  itinerant  evangelists  and  Chris- 
tian reformers  of  all  kinds;  his  paper  exposed  the  evils  of 
drink  and  denounced  gambling,  prostitution,  dueling,  and 
theatergoing,  and  extolled  the  virtues  of  Bible  societies,  home 
missions,  and  Sabbath  observance.  In  its  pages  each  week 
could  be  found  the  evangelical  prescription  for  a  better  world. 

At  Collier's  Garrison  met  the  printer  of  the  National 
Philanthropist,  Nathaniel  White,  who  hired  him  as  a  type- 
setter sometime  late  in  1827.  When  Collier,  discouraged  by 
the  anemic  circulation  of  his  paper,  decided  to  sell  out  to  his 
printer,  White  made  Garrison  his  new  editor.  On  January 
4,  1828,  the  National  Philanthropist  appeared  for  the  first 
time  under  new  editorial  direction,  although  Garrison's  name 
did  not  appear  on  the  masthead  until  March, 

Once  again  he  set  out  to  refashion  a  newspaper  according 
to  his  notions  of  popular  journalism.  He  increased  the  number 
of  columns,  enlarged  the  format,  and  cleaned  up  the  typog- 
raphy. Collier's  motto,  Moderate  Drinking  is  the  Downhill 
Road  to  Drunkenness,  he  decided  to  keep,  but  for  Collier's 
sermons  he  substituted  stinging  editorials.  His  experiences 


6z  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

with  the  Free  Press  had  taught  him  the  need  for  a  platform. 
In  an  editorial  entitled  "Moral  Character  of  Public  Men"  he 
expounded  his  new  philosophy  of  reform.  "Moral  principles 
should  be  inseparably  connected  with  political;  and  the 
splendid  talents  of  the  dissolute  must  not  be  preferred  to  the 
competent,  though  inferior,  abilities  of  the  virtuous  of  our 
land."  Americans,  he  continued,  had  never  understood  the 
need  for  a  moral  influence  sufficient  to  control  party  in- 
temperance and  enhance  the  value  of  public  opinion.  It  there- 
fore behooved  Christians  especially  to  guard  against  "the 
common  partialities  and  obliquities  of  political  strife*"  Political 
parties  should  henceforth  be  subject  to  Christian  control  No 
longer  would  the  duelist,  the  gambler,  the  debauchcr,  or  the 
"profane  swearer"  be  elected  simply  because  he  was  a  Federal- 
ist or  a  Republican.  Political  morality  must  be  raised  to  the 
level  of  Christian  behavior.  "It  is  due  to  our  principles,  our 
civil,  social  and  moral  institutions,  that  men  whose  characters 
are  notoriously  bad  should  be  deprived  of  the  control  of  our 
political  destinies/'5 

There  was  nothing  new  in  Garrison's  plea  for  religious  in- 
fluence in  politics;  it  had  been  the  stock-in-trade  of  evangeli- 
cals and  their  benevolent  societies  for  fifteen  years*  Behind  its 
seemingly  nonpartisan  appeal  lay  the  conservative  opinions 
of  clericals  who  sought  to  defend  the  established  order  from 
onrushing  democracy*  One  of  the  most  striking  of  the  many 
ironies  that  studded  Garrison's  career  was  the  fact  that  his 
anti-slavery  radicalism  evolved  out  of  a  literal  interpretation 
of  these  principles  of  Christian  conservatism. 

The  professed  aim  of  the  benevolent  societies  which  sprang 
up  after  1812  in  response  to  the  challenge  of  democracy  was 
the  extension  of  the  Christian  faith  and  the  reformation  of 
public  morals.  The  American  Bible  Society,  the  Sunday 
School  Union,  the  American  Tract  Society,  home  and  foreign 


BOSTON  63 

missionary  societies  all  shared  the  common  goal  of  educating 
the  citizen  for  participation  in  a  Christian  America-  The 
publications  of  the  Bible  Society  urged  its  members  to  scruti- 
nize voting  lists  and  elect  only  Christian  candidates*  The 
Society  for  the  Preservation  of  the  Sabbath  discredited  any 
office-seeker  who  failed  to  keep  the  Sabbath.  The  Temperance 
Society  withheld  its  support  from  any  politician  known  to 
imbibe.  And  so  it  went.  Denied  entrance  to  the  halls  of  state 
through  the  main  portals,  the  ministers  availed  themselves  of 
the  back  door.  If  they  could  not  make  the  laws  themselves, 
they  could  see  to  it  that  the  laws  recognized  their  influence. 
By  the  time  Garrison  joined  them,  the  benevolent  societies 
were  busy  as  never  before  operating  a  gigantic  political  lobby, 
publicity  bureau,  and  propaganda  machine  in  the  interests  of 
the  new  puritanism. 

When  it  came  to  defining  the  Christian  statesman  the 
evangelical  formula  grew  blurred.  It  was  all  well  and  good  to 
insist  on  honesty,  trust,  duty,  and  uprightness,  but  what  did 
these  words  really  mean?  Granted  that  the  unregenerate 
politician  could  be  identified  by  his  sins  —  tippling,  gambling, 
and  general  licentious  behavior,  but  the  positive  content  of 
the  ideal  of  Christian  statesmanship  remained  unexplored,  The 
evangelical  argument  ran  like  this:  A  "professing  Christian" 
is  one  who  is  regenerate  (L  e.,  has  received  saving  grace)  and 
is  thus  free  from  selfishness,  hypocrisy,  and  dishonesty.  Once 
in  office  he  is  bound  to  make  the  right  decisions.  His  views 
on  the  tariff,  land  grants,  or  the  Bank  hardly  matter  since  he 
can  always  be  trusted  to  reach  a  Christian  solution*  On  the 
theory  that  it  takes  a  Christian  to  recognize  and  elect  a  fellow 
communicant,  the  evangelicals  argued  that  social  reform 
really  begins  with  the  moral  reform  of  individuals.  Not  until 
everyone  is  purified  can  the  problem  of  Christian  govern- 
ment be  solved.  Poverty,  slavery,  capital  punishment,  im~ 


64  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

prisonment  for  debt,  extension  of  the  franchise,  all  the  major 
social  problems  await  the  regeneration  of  the  individual  Once 
the  saints  are  legion  they  will  make  their  righteousness  felt, 
and  their  moral  oninicompetencc  will  ensure  a  reign  of  peace 
and  justice. 

Thus  the  problems  of  social  and  political  reform  were  re- 
duced in  the  evangelical  equation  to  elements  of  personal 
morality.  By  reforming  the  individual  and  bringing  him  to 
Christ  the  preachers  would  mysteriously  change  his  heart 
and  thereby  qualify  him  for  leadership.  Piecemeal  reforms, 
especially  those  favored  by  political  parties  and  disaffected 
minorities,  they  dismissed  as  pernicious  half-measures  based  on 
compromise  rather  than  the  rock  of  universal  love. 

Such  in  all  its  essentials  was  the  doctrine  of  moral  reform 
as  Garrison  understood  and  accepted  it,  an  equation  of  duties 
and  rewards.  "If  we  have  hitherto  lived  without  reference 
to  another  state  of  existence,"  he  wrote  in  one  of  his  new 
editorials,  "let  us  do  so  no  longer,"  The  fruits  of  earth  are 
bitter.  Christians  must  lay  up  treasures  in  heaven  "where 
change  and  decay  have  never  entered,  and  the  ardent  aspira- 
tions of  the  soul  are  satisfied  in  the  fulness  of  God."  The  balm 
of  Gilead  alone  can  restore  peace  to  the  troubled,  health 
to  the  wounded,  and  happiness  to  the  suffering;  "its  applica- 
tion will  make  men  the  heirs  of  joyous  immortality;  and  thanks 
to  the  Great  Physician  of  souls,  this  sovereign  balm  can  be  ob- 
tained without  money  and  without  price*"6  Faith  without 
works,  however,  was  not  enough.  The  very  certainty  of 
Christian  truth  dictated  the  need  for  an  immediate  reform  of 
the  evils  of  the  world. 

If  I  were  an  atheist  and  expected  to  perish  like  the  ox  —  or  a  deist, 
and  rejected  God's  glorious  and  exalted  revelation  —  or  if  I  dis- 
believed the  doctrine  of  rewards  and  punishments  in  a  future 


BOSTON 65 

life  —  or  professed  to  receive  all  my  happiness  on  earth  —  neither 
my  interest  nor  my  pleasure  would  lead  me  to  squander  away 
existence  upon  the  unproductive  things  of  the  world.  I  could  not 
be  so  selfish  (with  my  present  feelings)  as  to  remain  an  idler  here, 
or  a  passive  spectator  of  the  contest  between  right  and  wrong  — 
virtue  and  vice  —  truth  and  error  —  which  must  continue  to  the 
end  of  time.  .  .  .  While  there  remains  a  tyrant  to  sway  the  iron 
rod  of  power,  or  chain  about  the  body  or  mind  to  be  broken,  I 
cannot  surrender  my  arms.  While  drunkenness  and  intemperance 
abound,  I  will  try  to  reclaim  the  dissolute,  and  to  annihilate  the 
progress  of  vice.  While  profanity  and  sabbath-breaking,  and 
crime  wound  my  ear  and  affect  my  sight,  I  will  reprove,  admonish 
and  condemn.  While  the  demon  of  war  is  urging  mankind  to 
deeds  of  violence  and  revenge,  I  will  'study  the  things  that  make 
for  peace.'  While  a  soul  remains  unenlightened,  uneducated,  and 
without  *the  glorious  gospel  of  the  blessed  God,'  my  duty  is 
plain  —  I  will  contribute  my  little  influence  to  the  diffusion  of 
universal  knowledge.7 

From  now  on,  he  promised,  his  methods  would  be  those  of 
Christian  example  and  enterprise.  "The  gospel  of  Christ 
breathes  peace  to  men,"  he  explained,  "its  language  is  full  of 
the  mildness  of  God.  .  .  .  This  gospel  is  not  to  be  propagated 
by  fire  and  sword,  nor  nourished  by  blood  and  slaughter.  It 
must  go  forth  nmder  the  banner  of  the  cross."8  Beneath  that 
banner  in  the  years  to  come  he  would  collect  a  band  of 
militant  Christian  rebels  who  cared  less  for  the  mildness  of 
God  than  for  their  freedom  of  conscience. 

If  it  was  true  that  politics  and  morals  were  indistinguishable, 
how  could  the  religious  reformer  avoid  the  pitfalls  of  party 
politics?  It  was  one  thing  to  point  out,  as  he  did,  the  "inutility, 
the  folly,  the  slothfulness  and  bane  of  party  spirit."  Still,  the 
notion  that  opinions  and  habits  could  be  changed  without 
votes  and  laws,  he  admitted,  was  both  "visionary"  and  "highly 


66  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  IXOYD  GARRISON 

dangerous."  Private  example  might  influence  a  household, 
but  only  public  effort  could  convert  a  nation,  "Hence  it  has 
seemed  to  me,"  he  wrote,  "that  the  readiest  way  to  operate  on 
the  mass  of  society  is  to  begin  with  the  opulent."  The  manners 
of  fashionable  people  soon  become  law  to  an  otherwise  "law- 
less multitude"  —  "its  enactments  go  into  immediate  opera- 
tion; it  is  a  stream,  winding  through  the  innumerable  chan- 
nels of  community,  transparent,  gentle,  fructifying  —  or  turbid 
with  pollution,  and  pernicious  in  its  circulation."  Thus  he  saw 
in  the  General  Union  for  Promoting  the  Observance  of  the 
Christian  Sabbath,  supported  by  wealthy  businessmen,  "the 
most  efficient  instrument  in  the  cause  of  religion  and  public 
morality  ever  put  into  practice  in  any  age  and  country,*'* 
To  the  Jacksonian  critics  who  complained  that  such  groups 
were  cancerous  growths  on  the  body  politic  he  replied  with 
the  warning  that  "unless  societies  are  formed  to  operate  upon 
public  sentiment,  to  sound  the  trumpet  of  alarm  over  a 
slumbering  land,  to  give  adaptation  and  strength  to  the  hands 
of  the  people,  the  tide  of  desolation  will  continue  to  swell 
till  neither  ark  nor  mountain  will  be  able  to  save  us  from 
destraaion."10 

At  this  point  Garrison  was  fairly  caught  in  the  evangelical 
contradiction,  for  if  the  urgency  of  the  American  political 
situation  was  clear,  so  was  the  necessity  of  choosing  sides. 
He  could  not  avoid  political  choice  any  more  than  the  evan- 
gelicals could  mask  their  Whiggish  prejudices.  He  took  care 
to  remind  his  readers  that  he  was  not  permitted  to  indulge  in 
political  dispute,  that  "it  does  not  become  us  to  advocate 
particular  candidates  for  office*"  All  he  could  do  was  to  urge 
them  to  seek  out  "Christian  and  moral  men"  worthy  of  their 
confidence.  Yet  when  Daniel  Webster  was  criticized  by  the 
Boston  merchants  for  his  about-face  on  the  tariff  question, 
Garrison  rushed  to  the  defense  of  that  "star  in  the  galaxy  of 


BOSTON 67 

American  worthies."11  As  to  the  tariff,  he  admitted  to 
strongly  favoring  protection,  which  would  help  supply  the 
domestic  market  "with  cheaper  goods  than  England  can. 
possibly  do,"12 

The  National  Philanthropist  was  strictly  prohibitionist.  To 
dramatize  the  dangers  of  alcohol  Garrison  resorted  to  every 
sensational  trick  he  knew  — lurid  tales  of  spontaneous  com- 
bustion, stories  of  starving  families  victimized  by  the  drunk- 
ard's curse,  and  reams  of  homiletic  verse. 

What  is  the  cause  of  every  ill? 
That  does  with  pain  the  body  fill? 
It  is  the  oft  repeated  gill 
Of  Whiskey 

What  makes  chill  penury  prevail, 
Makes  widows  moan  and  orphans  wail, 
And  fills  the  poor  house  and  the  jail? 
Tis  Whiskey.1* 

Patiently  he  distinguished  for  readers  the  absolute  evil 
of  alcohol  from  lesser  sins  like  gluttony.  "If  my  companion 
swallow  a  turkey  or  masticate  a  small  pig,  or  demolish  a  sirloin 
of  beef,  he  does  not  whet  my  appetite  nor  induce  me  to  follow 
his  example."14 

To  expand  the  circulation  of  the  National  Philanthropist 
he  wagered  that  all  tipplers  who  subscribed  to  it  would  save  at 
least  the  cost  of  the  paper  in  six  months'  time.  He  also  en- 
listed the  support  of  women  and  expressed  surprise  that 
"assimilated  as  is  domestic  enjoyment  with  a  temperate  house- 
hold," appeals  to  the  weaker  sex  were  so  few.  With  all  due  al- 
lowance for  their  retired  habits,  it  was  essential  to  capitalize  on 
the  "immense  influence  which  the  females  of  our  country  are 


68  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

capable  of  exerting  over  our  habits  and  manners  as  a  people."10 
Thus  began  his  lifelong  liaison  with  "female  influence,"  the 
evangelical  practice  which  Hawthorne  and  then  James  de- 
plored as  the  cause  of  an  insidious  feminizing  of  the  American 
character.  Eventually  the  Zenobias,  the  Olive  Chancellors  and 
Miss  Birdscyes  became  the  mainstays  of  Garrisonian  reform. 

Garrison  relished  the  role  of  public  censor.  His  paper 
advertised  projects  like  the  Penitent  Female  Refuge  to  "bring 
back  the  abandoned  from  the  path  of  lewdness  and  moral 
death"  and  the  Society  for  the  Promotion  of  Morality  and 
Piety  in  Boston,  As  a  self-appointed  guardian  of  American 
morals,  he  set  out  to  purify  the  national  literary  taste.  First 
to  fall  beneath  his  censorious  eye  were  the  "vile  outpourings" 
of  Tom  Moore,  those  "unholy  emanations  of  Icwdncss  and 
intemperance."  He  recommended  as  a  corrective  to  the  Irish 
Anacreon  the  "comprehensive  and  masterly"  sermons  on 
intemperance  of  Lyman  Beecher.16 

His  campaign  for  purity  involved  him  in  a  skirmish  with 
Boston  culture  — with  the  "indelicate*'  offerings  of  Mrs. 
Knight  at  the  Federal  Street  Theater  and  the  "bill  of  licen- 
tiousness" offered  by  an  Italian  dance  troupe  at  the  Tremont. 
Even  the  Immortal  Bard,  whose  plays  caused  every  virtuous 
man  to  "veil  his  face/7  failed  to  meet  his  exacting  standards 
of  decency.  Lotteries,  Sunday  mails,  and  Sabbath-breaking 
loomed  large  as  sins  of  huge  dimensions.  The  sight  of  "profli- 
gate coxcombs  and  dissipated  dandies"  enjoying  a  Sunday 
stroll  sent  him  straight  to  his  desk  to  demand  rigid  enforce- 
ment of  blue  laws*  Behind  the  lumbering  Sunday  mail  coaches 
he  saw  "skepticism  and  depravity"  stalking  abroad.  In  dark 
moments  like  these  he  wondered  why  Christians  wasted  their 
lives  in  fruitless  doctrinal  quarrels  "while  infidelity*  is  seeking 
to  subvert  the  purity  of  our  institutions  and  the  permanency 
of  our  liberties."17 


BOSTON 69 

He  did  not  really  believe  all  of  his  predictions  of  impend- 
ing doom.  Though  he  scarcely  realized  it,  his  belief  in  moral 
progress  harmonized  completely  with  the  confident  outlook 
of  the  Jacksonian  age.  In  1828  Senator  Richard  M.  Johnson, 
spokesman  for  the  New  West  and  archenemy  of  the  New 
England  clergy,  delivered  an  oration  on  the  Senate  floor 
in  which  he  prophesied  unlimited  progress  as  the  American 
destiny.  Reading  Johnson's  speech,  Garrison  was  moved  to  add 
an  editorial  comment  of  his  own.  He  examined  and  rejected 
the  romantic  notion  of  the  mortality  of  civilizations.  "The 
idea  has  obtained  in  all  ages  that  there  must  be  a  constant 
succession  of  empires,  like  waves  of  the  ocean,  and  that  the 
oblivious  hand  of  time  must  blot  out  with  the  lapse  of 
centuries.  Nothing  can  be  more  erroneous."18  America's 
future,  he  concluded,  was  unlimited,  with  population  expand- 
ing, a  government  based  on  equality  of  rights,  humanity 
and  justice  blended  with  religious  principle.  Why  should 
the  Republic  crumble  or  dissolve? 

Garrison's  hymn  to  progress  formed  part  of  the  liturgy 
of  evangelicalism.  For  all  their  jeremiads  and  professional  pes- 
simism the  American  evangelicals  were  the  unwitting  carriers 
of  the  Revolutionary  heritage.  Their  faith  in  the  efficacy 
of  voluntary  associations  revealed  a  deep  commitment  to  the 
doctrine  of  progress.  They  believed  that  they  could  convert 
a  wicked  nation  to  goodness  simply  by  organizing  and  direct- 
ing pubHc  opinion,  that  is,  by  the  judicious  use  of  Christian 
pressure  groups.  But  who  could  say  where  this  process  might 
end?  In  stressing  the  importance  of  public  opinion  they  gave 
their  own  meaning  to  the  ideal  of  democratic  association, 
but  their  vision  of  progress  and  their  ideal  of  the  free  indi- 
vidual were  fundamentally  similar  to  the  perfectionist  image 
of  the  Jeffersonians.  True,  they  cried  down  natural  reason 
and  the  Enlightenment  world  view.  Nevertheless,  their  ac- 


70  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

ceptance  of  the  principle  of  free  association  and  their  cer- 
tainty of  the  power  of  revealed  truth  to  win  in  the  open  mar- 
ket sustained  and  carried  forward  the  optimism  of  the 
Revolutionary  generation.  In  perfecting  their  scheme  for  a 

stable  society  strong  in  religious  habit  and  united  in  the 
Protestant  faith  they  discovered  the  very  democratic  tech- 
niques which  were  soon  to  be  turned  against  them.  The  whole 
benevolent  apparatus  —  open  societies,  public  meetings,  free 
literature,  propaganda  —  which  they  used  to  impose  a  con- 
servative Christian  pattern  on  American  society  might  as 
easily  be  appropriated  by  another  group  of  reformers  with 
a  more  explosive  cause.  Tracts,  newspapers  and  placards,  so 
effective  in  fighting  Sabbath-breaking  and  the  Sunday  mails, 
could  also  be  used  to  free  the  slaves.  In  the  principle  of 
voluntary  association  they  had  found  an  effective  method  for 
agitating  causes  which  could  divide  as  well  as  unify  the 
country.  Had  they  but  known  it,  the  evangelicals  had  fash- 
ioned an  engine  of  national  self-destruction.  All  that  logic 
required  was  a  man  who  practiced  the  Christian  zeal  they 
preached. 

Gradually  Garrison  began  to  distinguish  between  com- 
plaints of  irreligious  behavior  and  major  social  evils*  He  con- 
tinued to  lash  out  at  profane  language  and  licentiousness,  at 
habits  like  "the  present  rage  of  sporting  huge  mustaches,'* 
but  he  was  slowly  discovering  that  there  were  certain  ques- 
tions to  which  the  evangelicals  had  no  easy  answers*  One  of 
these  was  William  Ladd's  peace  question  and  the  problem 
of  defensive  war.  Indifference  to  principle  nettled  him.  If  war 
was  morally  wrong,  how  could  defensive  war  be  right?  If 
slavery  was  un-Chri$tian»  why  did  Christians  practice  it? 
What  could  be  more  reasonable  than  the  attempt  to  live  by  the 
all-sufficient  word  of  God?  The  more  he  pondered  the  gospel 
of  Christ  the  closer  he  was  drawn  to  its  simple  message  — 


BOSTON  71 

"Go  ye  and  do  likewise."  The  theological  implications  of 
Christian  perfectionism  were  not  yet  clear  to  him.  Just  how 
truth  could  be  gleaned  from  the  chaff  of  Biblical  contradic- 
tions he  did  not  as  yet  know.  He  was  satisfied  to  consult 
his  conscience  and  then  act. 

In  this  mood  of  self-examination  he  approached  the  prob- 
lem of  American  apathy.  What  but  "indifference"  explained 
the  reluctance  of  Christians  to  undertake  the  work  of  reform? 
"There  are,  in  faith,  few  reasoning  Christians,"  he  wrote; 
"the  majority  of  them  are  swayed  more  by  the  usages  of 
the  world  than  by  any  definite  perception  of  what  constitutes 
duty."19  Was  there  not  enough  Christian  influence  in  the 
country  to  reform  it? 

By  the  "duty  of  reasoning  Christians"  he  did  not  mean 
simply  the  common-sense  adaptations  of  religious  precepts  to 
daily  Hf  e,  but  a  purer  and  more  personal  belief  in  the  superior- 
ity of  the  righteous  man.  Slavery  and  war,  vices  "incorporated 
into  the  existence  of  society,"  could  only  be  corrected  by  re- 
fashioning America  according  to  the  word  of  God.  The  er- 
rors of  the  evangelicals,  he  saw,  lay  not  in  their  ideals  but  in 
their  failure  to  live  up  to  them.  It  was  a  question  of  funda- 
mentals—spiritual principles  were  levers  for  moving  the 
world,  social  action  a  form  of  personal  atonement.  Slowly  he 
was  learning  that  evangelical  passion  logically  ends  in  radical- 
ism; further,  that  perfectionism  and  radicalism  are  similar 
states  of  mind.  In  the  consistency  with  which  he  pursued  his 
discovery  lay  the  profound  unity  of  his  life. 

The  radical  in  American  politics,  like  his  counterpart  the 
true  evangelical,  stands  outside  the  community,  his  isolation 
defined  by  his  ideals.  To  his  less  excitable  fellows  he  is 
something  of  an  anomaly,  admirable  perhaps,  but  irritating. 
Since  his  actions  are  dictated  by  conscience  alone  they  are 
usually  predictable.  He  combines  steadfastness  of  purpose  with 


j2  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

an  almost  reckless  disregard  of  self-interest.  He  will  not 
compromise  his  beliefs  and  prefers  to  suffer,  indeed  to  court, 
martyrdom  rather  than  give  in  to  the  majority.  His  dis- 
trusts politics  and  relies  instead  on  a  direct  appeal  to  the 
moral  sense  of  other  people.  He  views  society  as  a  collection 
of  individuals  to  be  rededicated  by  his  teachings  —  as  a  pool 
of  water  whose  placid  surface  is  broken  by  single  pebbles 
tossed  upon  it,  each  one  radiating  concentric  circles  of  right 
conduct.  Because  he  rests  his  case  on  emotion  rather  than 
reason,  the  radical  is  wary  of  subtleties  which  he  calls  hair- 
splitting. Something  of  an  anti-intellectual,  he  mistrusts  the 
doctrinaire  yet  is  often  guilty  of  ex  cathedra  pronouncements 
himself.  Consistency  is  not  his  forte:  in  his  search  for  a  better 
vantagepoint  from  which  to  analyze  the  evils  of  society  he 
frequently  and  often  abruptly  shifts  his  ground.  His  motives 
are  mixed  and  not  always  harmonious.  He  often  wavers  be- 
tween the  compulsion  to  be  right  and  the  urge  to  make  others 
right.  This  tension  between  the  demands  of  self  and  the  claims 
of  other  people  is  both  a  weakness  and  a  strength  —  a  weak- 
ness because  it  often  blinds  him  to  the  realities  of  political 
change;  a  strength  because  it  makes  conscience  the  touch- 
stone of  all  behavior.  This  outline  of  the  American  radical 
temperament  is  also  the  profile  of  Garrison's  personality, 

One  of  the  myths  that  attach  themselves  to  the  American 
radical  is  that  of  rugged  independence*  The  image  of  the  lone 
figure  struggling  against  overwhelming  odds  is  a  naturally 
appealing  one  to  an  age  that  enjoys  chiefly  the  nostalgia  of 
the  history  of  American  radicalism.  Garrison  was  the  willing 
perpetrator  of  just  such  a  myth.  He  liked  to  tell  how,  unaided 
and  alone,  he  found  his  way  to  abolition  and  formed  the 
crusade  that  eventually  freed  the  Negro.  This  legend,  care- 
fully matured  by  his  followers,  ensured  his  fame  but  obscured 
the  debts  he  owed  to  others.  Beecher  and  Boston  supplied 


BOSTON 


73 


him  with  most  of  the  causes  and  techniques  he  used  in  the 
anti-slavery  cause.  Long  after  he  denounced  Beecher  and  the 
evangelicals  he  remained  obligated  to  them  for  the  convic- 
tions which  led  him  to  racial  equality.  He  came  to  Boston  a 
brash  young  man  without  a  cause;  he  left  eighteen  months 
later  sure  that  he  had  found  one.  The  year  1828  was  his 
anmis  mimbiUs  for  which  the  evangelicals  had  prepared  him. 
In  March  of  that  year  Benjamin  Lundy  arrived  in  Boston. 


4 
Benjamin  Lundy 


ON  THE  EVENING  of  March  1 7,  1 82 8,  Benjamin  Lundy 
gathered  a  group  of  Boston  ministers  in  William  Col- 
lier's boardinghouse  to  discuss  the  means  of  forming  a  local 
anti-slavery  society.  The  meeting  was  hardly  a  success.  Of 
the  handful  of  clergymen  assembled  only  Samuel  Joseph  May, 
the  young  pastor  of  the  Unitarian  Church  in  Cambridgeport, 
evinced  the  slightest  interest  in  Lundy's  project.  The  rest, 
while  stoutly  maintaining  their  dislike  of  slavery,  opposed 
anything  so  rash  as  a  society  to  abolish  it.  If  he  hoped  to 
change  their  minds,  Lundy  might  as  well  have  been  talking 
to  the  cobblestones  in  Milk  Street. 

As  he  lectured  the  group  Lundy  noticed  a  young  man 
with  a  balding  head  and  steel-rimmed  glasses  who  sat  on  the 
edge  of  his  chair,  eyes  fixed  intently  on  Lundy,  following 
every  word  and  nodding  his  head  vigorously  in  agreement. 
After  the  meeting  Lundy  spoke  to  his  admirer,  whose  name 
he  understood  to  be  Garrison,  the  twenty-two-year-old  editor 
of  Collier's  paper.  Garrison  told  him  of  his  high  regard  for 
Lundy's  own  newspaper,  the  Genius  of  Unwerwl  Bmancipa** 
tion,  and  showed  him  an  editorial  he  had  written  denouncing 
slaveholders  for  trying  to  "seal  up  the  mind  and  debase  the 
intellect  of  a  man  to  brutal  incapacity/'  a()ur  boasted 
liberty/'  he  had  written,  "is  a  paradox.  We  have  warmed  in 


BENJAMIN  LUNDY 75 

our  bosom  a  serpent,  the  poison  of  whose  sting  is  felt  through 
every  vein  of  the  republic;  we  have  been  industriously  creat- 
ing mines  of  irremediable  destruction,  gathering  materials  for 
a  national  catastrophe."1  Reading  this  bombast,  Lundy  may 
have  noticed  Garrison's  confession  that  he  lacked  information 
"by  which  to  form  an  accurate  statement  of  what  has  been 
done  and  the  means  now  in  operation  to  redeem  the  oppressed 
and  degraded  sons  of  Africa  in  our  land."  When  he  finished 
chatting  with  Garrison,  Lundy  realized  that  he  had  only  to 
supply  this  information  to  make  a  convert.  Little  did  he  know 
that  his  facts  were  the  keys  to  Pandora's  box  and  that  he  was 
about  to  release  a  scourge  of  God. 

Benjamin  Lundy  was  born  a  Quaker  in  Sandwich,  New 
Jersey,  in  1789.  His  great-grandfather  had  been  one  of  the 
original  settlers  of  Bucks  County,  Pennsylvania,  and  a  founder 
of  the  Society  of  Friends  there.  As  a  Quaker,  Lundy  in- 
herited a  long  tradition  of  uncompromising  resistance  to 
slavery,  a  tradition  that  emphasized  the  moral  wrong  of 
slaveholding  and  reduced  the  problem  to  the  dimensions  of 
individual  conscience.  The  opinions  of  the  Quakers  were  not 
always  moderate  and  inoffensive.  Their  belief  in  the  im- 
mediacy of  the  Holy  Spirit  and  their  trust  in  the  informed 
conscience  freed  them  from  institutional  prejudices  and  the 
need  to  compromise,  Lundy's  forebears  bequeathed  to  him 
a  concern  with  personal  worthiness  and  soul-searching,  an 
unyielding  hostility  to  slavery,  the  militant  views  and  blunt 
language  of  Christian  zealots.  He  found  this  same  spirit  reborn 
in  his  young  friend, 

Lundy  was  a  slight,  stoop-shouldered,  brittle  man  with 
thinning  reddish  hair  — quiet,  unassuming,  and  absolutely 
fearless*  His  initiation  into  the  anti-slavery  movement  came 
on  a  trip  to  Wheeling,  West  Virginia,  which  was  a  regular 
stop  for  the  slave  coffles  headed  from  the  Tidewater  over  the 


j6  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

mountains  into  the  Old  Southwest.  As  he  watched  the  pro- 
cession of  manacled  slaves  driven  through  the  dusty  streets, 
he  was  filled  with  revulsion  and  the  iron  entered  his  soul. 
In  Ohio,  where  he  settled  after  the  war  of  1812,  he  formed 
the  Union  Humane  Society,  an  abolitionist  organization  that 
numbered  five  hundred  members  at  the  end  of  its  first  year. 
During  the  Missouri  crisis  he  went  to  St.  Louis  and  witnessed 
the  defeat  of  the  free-state  forces  there  before  returning  to 
Ohio  penniless  and  discouraged.  There  were  two  Quaker 
anti-slavery  newspapers  in  the  Mississippi  Valley  at  this 
time  —  the  Philanthropist^  edited  by  Charles  Osborne,  and  the 
E?mncipatory  published  by  Elihu  Embree.  When  Embree 
died  suddenly  and  Osborne's  sheet  was  sold  to  a  printer  who 
did  not  measure  up  to  Lundy's  anti-slavery  standards,  he 
decided  to  print  a  paper  of  his  own.  Accordingly,  he  moved 
to  Mt  Pleasant,  Ohio,  where  he  brought  out  the  first  number 
of  the  Genius  of  Universal  Emancipation  in  January,  1821. 
When  he  first  met  Garrison,  he  was  stili  printing  his  paper 
between  trips  to  the  West  Indies  and  lecture  tours  in  New 
England. 

Lundy  drove  himself  mercilessly.  He  usually  carried  his 
type  with  him  on  his  travels,  stopping  to  print  an  issue  of  his 
paper  whenever  he  found  the  time  and  the  money.  His  travels 
took  him  into  Quaker  meetings  on  Nantucket  and  in  the  hill 
towns  of  North  Carolina,  the  drawing  rooms  of  wealthy 
Philadelphia  Friends  and  the  shacks  of  free  Negroes  in 
Baltimore.  A  pioneer  in  the  field  of  anti-slavery  lecturing, 
he  was  not,  as  Garrison  soon  realized,  an  effective  orator.  His 
weak  voice  and  halting  delivery  made  him  much  more  effec- 
tive in  small  gatherings  than  in  the  lecture  hall  Yet  he  was 
accustomed  to  mobs  and  brickbats.  Six  months  before  he 
met  Garrison  he  was  accosted  in  a  Baltimore  street  by  an 
irate  slave-trader  named  Austin  Woolfolk  who  had  been  the 


BENJAMIN  LtJNDY  77 

target  of  one  of  his  more  caustic  editorials.  Woolfolk  chal- 
lenged him,  knocked  him  flat,  and  then,  discovering  that  he 
had  no  intention  of  defending  himself,  proceeded  to  adminis- 
ter a  brutal  beating.  Lundy  picked  himself  up  and  marched 
to  the  nearest  police  station  to  swear  out  a  writ  against  his 
assailant.  After  a  seemingly  endless  delay  he  had  the  satisfac- 
tion of  receiving  damages  to  the  amount  of  one  dollar. 

Until  he  met  Lundy,  Garrison  had  felt  no  immediate  con- 
cern for  the  slave.  To  be  sure,  slavery  was  a  national  wrong 
which  would  someday  have  to  be  corrected.  He  had  discussed 
the  slave  insurrections  in  South  Carolina  with  Caleb  Gushing 
and  followed  the  progress  of  the  Missouri  debates  with  in- 
terest. His  religious  upbringing  and  his  mother's  possessive 
grip  had  taught  him  to  hate  the  idea  of  holding  property  in 
human  beings.  No  doubt  he  sincerely  believed  slavery  the 
"curse"  he  named  it  in  the  pages  of  his  papers.  Its  effects, 
however,  were  little  felt  in  New  England  where  it  had  been 
abandoned  fifty  years  before.  Lundy  may  have  argued  that 
the  people  of  the  free  states  carried  the  blood  of  the  slave 
"on  every  finger,"  but  most  New  Englanders  thought  other- 
wise. Except  for  the  childhood  interlude  in  Baltimore,  Garri- 
son had  seen  nothing  of  slavery  and  knew  little  of  its  extent 
and  political  power.  His  meeting  with  Lundy  was  thus  a 
turning  point  in  his  life,  for  it  was  Lundy's  facts  and  figures 
which  persuaded  him  that  here  was  a  cause  more  important 
than  temperance  and  Sabbath  observance. 

He  promptly  reported  Lundy's  meeting  at  Collier's  as  a 
clarion  call  for  "a  strong  and  extensive  interest  in  the  cause 
of  emancipating  the  slaves  in  our  country."2  Lundy's  spell 
still  held  him,  for  he  announced  that  the  clergymen  had  given 
"their  entire  approbation"  to  his  ideas.  He  praised  Lundy 
and  described  the  Genius  of  Universal  Efinncipauon  as  "the 
bravest  and  best  attempt  in  the  history  of  newspaper  publica- 


78  THE  LIBERATOR:    WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

tions."  He  cited  Lundy's  figures  on  the  number  of  anti- 
slavery  societies  as  proof  of  the  great  advance  of  Southern 

humanitarian  sentiment.  Even  the  American  Colonization 
Society  came  in  for  its  share  of  the  plaudits  along  with 
Lundy's  Haitian  colonization  scheme.  He  noted  that  over 
one  thousand  free  Negroes  had  already  been  sent  back  to 
Africa  while  over  seven  thousand  were  now  established  in 
Haiti.  "This  number  may  appear  insignificant,  when  con- 
trasted with  the  rapid  increase  of  slaves  in  the  southern 
States,  during  the  same  period;  but  this  very  multiplication 
magnifies  the  extent  of  the  relief  which  has  been  given;  for  if 
these  immigrants  had  remained,  how  long  would  it  have  taken 
to  redouble  their  number?"  Soon  he  would  draw  from  the 
same  set  of  figures  an  entirely  different  conclusion  as  to  the 
worth  of  the  Colonization  Society-  Now  he  saw  only  the 
rapid  progress  of  Christian  spirit;  the  prejudices  of  the  South 
were  gradually  yielding  to  the  dictates  of  humanity  and 
justice;  anti-slavery  societies  were  being  formed;  and  public 
opinion  against  slavery  was  gathering  a  force  which  in  time 
would  become  irresistible. 

Had  Garrison  bothered  to  examine  Southern  opinion  care- 
fully he  would  have  discerned  a  far  different  temper.  Under 
the  pressure  of  declining  prices  and  a  revived  Northern 
humanitarianism  the  South  was  abandoning  the  Jeffersonian 
ideal  of  a  free  society  for  a  defense  of  slavery  as  a  positive 
good.  The  "positive  good"  defense  of  slavery  preceded 
Garrison's  entrance  into  the  anti-slavery  movement  by  nearly 
a  decade.  At  a  time  when  he  first  began  to  think  about  slavery, 
Southern  intellectuals  had  already  discovered  a  divine  sanction 
for  their  way  of  life*  In  the  years  to  come  many  of  them 
protested  that  their  defense  was  a  reaction  against  the  ir- 
responsible attacks  of  Garrison  and  his  fellow  fanatics,  but 
the  truth  was  that  their  rationale  of  slavery  had  been  com- 


BENJAMIN  LUNDY  79 

pleted  long  before  the  first  number  of  the  Liberator  appeared. 

With  the  arrival  of  the  Missouri  question  in  Congress, 
Southern  liberalism  entered  upon  a  period  of  decline.  The 
assertion  of  federal  power  to  regulate  slavery  in  the  ter- 
ritories, no  matter  how  dangerous  a  usurpation  of  the  powers 
of  the  states,  was  a  debatable  issue  which  Southern  statesmen 
felt  competent  to  discuss.  When  Northern  restrictionists 
injected  the  question  of  "higher  law,"  however,  the  debates 
rose  to  the  rarefied  plane  of  moral  philosophy  where  the  de- 
fenders of  slavery  felt  distinctly  uncomfortable.  The  natural 
law  argument,  as  expounded  on  the  Senate  floor  by  Rufus 
King  of  New  York,  was  deceptively  simple.  If  it  was  wrong 
for  individuals  to  hold  property  in  other  men,  King  reasoned, 
it  was  wrong  for  groups  of  men  to  own  slaves;  and  all  com- 
pacts or  laws  imposing  slavery  were  void  because  they  vio- 
lated the  law  of  nature  which  is  the  law  of  God  and  para- 
mount to  all  human  control8 

There  were  several  ways  of  dealing  with  the  natural  law 
argument,  the  most  extreme  of  which  was  to  reject  it  out  of 
hand.  This  course  John  Randolph  took  when  he  pronounced 
the  Declaration  of  Independence,  the  restrictionists'  chief 
authority,  "a  fanfaronade  of  metaphysical  abstractions."  Wil- 
liam Pinkney  of  Maryland  submitted  a  modified  version  of 
Randolph's  indictment  by  declaring  that  Jefferson's  "self- 
evident  truths"  were,  properly  construed,  neither  self-evident 
nor  truths.  As  a  counterweight  to  the  hazy  abstractions  of  the 
Declaration  he  offered  the  seemingly  more  substantial  pre- 
scriptive rights  of  Edmund  Burke. 

King  and  his  Northern  contingent  were  most  vulnerable  to 
Southern  shafts  when  they  identified  natural  law  with  the 
law  of  God,  The  Southerners  knew  their  Bible  quite  as  well 
as  the  New  Englanders,  and  the  Old  Testament  provided  them 
with  all  the  ammunition  they  needed.  They  put  their  case  in 


80  THE  LIBERATOR;   WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

the  form  of  a  syllogism:  Whatever  God  sanctioned  for  the 
Hebrews  He  intended  for  all  times;  God  gave  the  Hebrews 
the  institution  of  slavery;  therefore  slavery  bore  the  stamp 
of  divine  approval  It  followed  that  slavery  was  "natural"  in 
the  only  intelligible  sense  of  the  word;  that  is,  it  was  a  natural 
possession  of  all  civilizations  and  a  natural  part  of  God's  plan. 
In  the  measured  terms  of  Burke's  reinterpretation  of  natural 
law  Southern  congressmen  announced  their  desertion  of  the 
Enlightenment  camp  for  the  fortress  of  romantic  con- 
servatism. 

Garrison,  in  imputing  to  the  South  an  enlightened  con- 
science, could  not  have  been  more  wrong*  If  he  had  troubled 
to  study  the  Missouri  debates,  that  "title  page  to  a  great  tragic 
volume,"  as  John  Quincy  Adams  called  them,  he  might  have 
read  a  speech  by  Senator  William  Smith  of  South  Carolina 
which  would  have  changed  his  mind*  In  the  course  of  his 
long  and  turgid  oration  Smith  invoked  the  Bible,  history,  and 
science  in  support  of  slavery.  There  had  always  been  slaves, 
he  said,  ever  since  the  Flood,  Christ  tacitly  approved  slave- 
holding  and  so  did  the  Holy  Fathers.  Criticism  of  slavery 
proceeded  from  the  heated  brains  of  fanatics  whose  misguided 
zeal  disrupted  the  pattern  of  Christian  living.  As  for  Jeffer- 
son's disturbing  ideas  in  Notes  on  Virginia,  they  were  simply 
the  "effusions  of  speculative  philosophy  of  his  young  and 
ardent  mind,  and  which  his  riper  years  have  corrected," 
Let  Northerners,  he  warned,  think  twice  before  interfering 
with  Southern  institutions* 

Smith's  devious  route  to  "higher  ground/'  Garrison  soon 
learned,  marked  the  trail  for  many  a  Southern  pamphleteer 
in  the  next  few  years.  Already  new  groups  of  propagandists 
were  urging  Southerners  to  quit  apologizing  for  slavery* 
The  South  Carolinians  Thomas  Cooper,  Whitemarsh  B* 
Seabrook,  and  Edward  Brown  attempted  to  prove  the  merits 


BENJAMIN   LUNDY  8 1 

of  the  slave  system  with  Biblical  and  historical  precedents. 
"Slavery,"  Brown  wrote,  "has  ever  been  the  stepping  ladder 
by  which  countries  have  passed  from  barbarism  to  civiliza- 
tion.'74 As  the  decade  progressed  these  sentiments  were  echoed 
throughout  the  lower  South  until,  in  1829,  the  Governor  of 
South  Carolina  could  announce  to  the  legislature,  "Slavery  is 
not  a  national  evil;  on  the  contrary,  it  is  a  national  benefit"® 
Soon  Thomas  R.  Dew,  James  Hammond,  William  Harper, 
and  Albert  Taylor  Bledsoe  would  embroider  this  argument 
with  their  own  distinctive  rhetoric,  but  with  the  exception  of 
George  Fitzhugh,  later  pro-slavery  thinkers  added  little  to  this 
premise.  Arguments  from  Scripture  and  history  sufficed  for 
some  years  to  come  to  hold  the  line  against  Northern  humani- 
tarians. 

Garrison  was  so  impressed  with  Lundy's  "unconquerable 
spirit  of  reform"  that  he  decided  to  join  his  crusade.  Hence- 
forth slavery  took  precedence  over  all  the  other  moral  causes 
with  his  decision  "to  spread  the  light  of  knowledge  and 
religious  liberty  wherever  darkness  and  superstition  reign." 
But  the  National  Philanthropist  proved  a  poor  medium  for 
his  new  cause.  Its  circulation  was  none  too  healthy,  and  be- 
sides, as  the  owner  reminded  him,  it  was  a  prohibition  paper 
which  supposedly  eschewed  political  controversy.  Yet  politics 
were  crowding  in  on  Garrison  until  his  self-imposed  restraints 
on  editorial  opinion  suddenly  seemed  hypocritical  He  ex- 
amined the  tariff  question  again  and  found  New  England's 
demands  for  protection  perfectly  just.  When.  South  Caro- 
lina publicly  weighed  the  value  of  the  Union,  he  could  not 
refrain  from  offering  a  word  of  warning  to  her  "blustering 
demagogues"  with  their  "rebellion  mania."  "Now  all  this 
bombast  and  bullying  will  accomplish  nothing.  The  tariff 
may  be  oppressive  and  unproductive,  but  it  cannot  be  altered 
till  another  session  of  Congress.  If  THE  PEOPLE  are  dissatisfied, 


8z  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

let  them  wait  in  quiet  submission  till  December,  and  then  let 
petitions  for  redress  pour  in.  ...  But  to  declaim  about  open 
resistance  —  !!"0  Thus  spoke  the  future  secessionist  in  1828. 

On  the  Fourth  of  July  he  submitted  his  resignation  with 
the  announcement  that  his  new  convictions  forced  him  to  seek 
"a  different  though  perhaps  not  more  honorable  or  beneficial 
employment."  In  August  Lundy  returned  to  the  city  for  a 
second  attempt  to  crack  Boston's  "icy  reserve."  Everywhere 
in  New  England  he  found  Yankees  rather  "cool  calculators" 
on  the  subject  of  slavery.  His  meeting  in  Boston  was  held  in 
the  vestry  of  the  Federal  Street  Church  despite  the  vehement 
protests  of  its  pastor,  the  Reverend  Howard  Malcolm.  Quietly 
yet  forcefully  Lundy  outlined  his  program  of  voluntary 
manumission  and  criticized  the  American  Colonization 
Society's  policy  of  purchasing  slaves,  which,  he  argued,  em- 
ployed the  wealth  but  not  the  will  of  the  people.  When  he 
finished,  up  jumped  the  Reverend  Malcolm  and  proceeded 
to  excoriate  Lundy's  scheme  and  any  other  plan  for  inter- 
fering with  slavery.  As  slavery  moved  farther  south,  he 
pointed  out,  it  was  gradually  declining  and  soon  would  be 
excluded  from  all  but  the  southernmost  states.  Meanwhile  it 
behooved  Christians  to  refrain  from  agitating  this  vexing 
subject 

Garrison  was  incensed  by  Malcolm's  bold  apology  for 
slavery;  he  dashed  off  a  letter  to  the  Boston  Courier  blasting 
Malcolm  and  calling  on  all  "high-minded,  spirited  and  phil- 
anthropic men"  to  join  him  in  petitioning  Congress  for  the 
abolition  of  slavery  in  the  District  of  Columbia.  Next  he  drew 
up  a  plan  for  circulating  petitions  throughout  the  state.  At  a 
second  meeting  with  Luady  he  suggested  exploring  the  pos- 
sibilities of  a  local  abolition  society,  but  both  he  and  Lundy 
knew  how  slim  their  chance  of  success  really  was.  He  was 


BENJAMIN  LUNDY ^ 83 

getting  a  taste  of  the  opposition  anti-slavery  would  provoke  in 
the  future,  and  he  liked  it. 

Lack  of  money  and  the  importunings  of  politicians  ended 
this  first  experiment  in  agitation.  Late  in  August  a  group  of 
town  fathers  from  Bennington,  Vermont,  came  to  Boston  in 
search  of  an  unemployed  editor  with  a  spirit  sufficiently  ad- 
venturous to  publish  an  Adams  campaign  sheet  in  their  state. 
Directed  to  Garrison,  they  were  desperate  enough  by  this 
late  date  to  accept  all  of  his  terms,  including  the  right  to 
discuss  slavery  and  other  moral  reforms  in  the  projected 
newspaper.  As  for  Garrison,  the  lingering  appeal  of  politics 
and  the  hope  of  a  steady  income  for  at  least  six  months  were 
strong  inducements  to  return  to  the  free-wheeling  partisan 
journalism  of  the  Free  Press.  He  accepted  on  the  spot.  With 
a  single  timid  anti-slavery  petition  and  an  unfinished  plan  for 
an  abolitionist  society  to  show  for  his  conversion  he  set  out 
for  Bennington. 

Horace  Greeley  remembered  the  Journal  of  the  Times  — 
the  name  of  Garrison's  new  venture  —  as  one  of  the  liveliest 
newspapers  in  the  history  of  Vermont  journalism.  More  ac- 
curate was  the  editor's  description  of  it  as  "a  very  singular 
kind  of  political  paper."7  Its  uniqueness  lay,  first  of  all,  in  its 
belated  appearance:  on  the  evening  of  October  2,  1828,  when 
Garrison  put  the  paper  to  bed  for  the  first  time,  Andrew 
Jackson  had  all  but  won  the  election.  By  September,  Old 
Hickory  had  been  accepting  the  congratulations  of  well- 
wishers  in  the  parlor  of  the  Hermitage,  and  only  the  unduly 
pessimistic  thought  the  honors  premature.  Adams  was  cheer- 
fully conceded  all  of  New  England,  but  the  rest  of  the 
country  was  expected  to  go  for  Jackson.  All  that  could  be 
rightfully  demanded  of  the  Journal  of  the  Times  was  to  con- 
firm this  sad  prediction  by  holding  Bennington  and  Vermont 
for  the  administration  against  the  Jacksonian  tide. 


84  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

Garrison's  employers  must  have  doubted  their  wisdom 
when  they  picked  up  the  first  issue  of  the  Journal  of  the 
Times  to  read  that  their  paper  would  be  "trammelled  by  no 
interest,  biased  by  no  sect,  awed  by  no  power."  The  new 
editor  defined  his  objectives  as  the  suppression  of  intem- 
perance, the  emancipation  of  the  slave,  and  the  perpetuity  of 
national  peace.  Far  down  the  list  came  the  re-election  of  John 
Quincy  Adams,  which  somehow  was  calculated  to  "supply  the 
wants  of  the  people."  Unaccountably  the  rumor  had  spread 
that  his  paper  was  an  Adams  sheet.  "The  blockheads  who  have 
had  the  desperate  temerity  to  propagate  this  falsehood  have 
yet  to  learn  our  character.  .  .  .  We  conduct  a  hireling  press! 
—  we  shall  see."8  What  Bennington  subscribers  saw  was  a 
spiritless  campaign  for  Adams. 

In  timeworn  Federalist  cliches  he  warned  of  dangers  greater 
than  at  any  time  since  the  formation  of  the  Republic.  The 
"dregs"  of  society  —  "the  vulgar,  the  profane,  the  intemper- 
ate" —  had  been  foolish  enough  to  choose  a  conservative  Ten- 
nessee landowner  "with  the  most  aristocratical  propositions" 
to  serve  their  selfish  ends,  "Unlettered  presumption"  threat- 
ened the  country  with  "universal  corruption,"  Garrison  even 
suggested  that  British  gold  was  at  work  buying  votes  for 
Jackson,  though  for  purposes  apparently  unknown.  He  sum- 
moned Vermont  to  her  duty,  but  his  heart  was  not  in  it  — 
he  simply  could  not  warm  to  the  task  of  fending  off  the 
indiscriminate  charges  hurled  at  Adams  by  the  Jacksonians. 
Publicly  he  anticipated  the  time  when  the  election  was  over 
and  "our  literary  and  moral  departments  will  exhibit  a  ful- 
ness and  excellence  commensurate  to  their  importance."0 
When  the  election  returns  reached  Bennington,  he  hurried  to 
put  a  decent  face  on  the  rout  by  describing  it  as  a  victory  of 
turbulence  over  order,  ignorance  over  knowledge.  He  was 


BENJAMIN  LUNDY  85 

happy  to  be  free  of  his  political  obligation,  and  was  just  turn- 
ing to  weightier  matters  when  a  final  quarrel  between  Adams 
and  the  Federalist  Old  Guard  erupted  as  if  to  vindicate  his 
lackluster  performance. 

Adams's  troubles  began  when  William  B.  Giles,  an  apostate 
Federalist,  released  a  letter  to  the  press  stating  on  the  authority 
of  Jefferson  that  Adams  had  known  of  the  secessionist  plots 
of  the  New  England  Federalists  as  early  as  1808  and  had 
communicated  them  to  Jefferson  himself.  Giles's  letter  not 
unnaturally  roused  the  ire  of  the  Massachusetts  Federalists, 
who  issued  a  denial  and  demanded  an  explanation  from 
Adams.  The  ex-President  was  in  no  mood  to  renew  the 
quarrel  and  replied  carefully,  admitting  the  general  truth  of 
Giles's  allegation  but  refusing  to  name  names.  But  the  Fed- 
eralists were  not  to  be  thus  mollified;  in  their  rejoinder  they 
raised  the  ghost  of  Adams's  apostasy  and  added  new  charges. 
Garrison  rushed  to  the  aid  of  Otis  and  the  Federalists.  "We 
gave  Mr.  Adams  our  ardent  and  entire  support  till  the  close 
of  the  Presidential  election/'  he  explained.  But  Adams  had 
made  aspersions  on  New  England  which  presented  him  in  a 
new  light.  He  had  instigated  a  needless  quarrel  and  then  re- 
treated from  the  fray  with  "neither  the  frankness  of  sincerity, 
nor  the  manliness  of  independence."  If  citizens  had  to  choose, 
"it  were  better  .  .  .  that  one  man  should  be  sacrificed,  than 
that  a  large  majority  of  the  people  of  New  England  should 
be  implicated  in  a  charge  of  once  harboring  designs  hostile 
to  the  Union."10  Not  until  he  saw  the  crusty  old  warrior 
battling  singlehanded  for  the  right  of  petitions  in  the  House 
of  Representatives  ten  years  later  did  Garrison  realize  that 
he  had  misjudged  his  man. 

Bennington  did  not  take  kindly  to  the  voluble  visitor  from 
the  Bay  State  nor  to  his  multifarious  projects  for  its  civic 
improvement,  which  included  a  lyceum,  a  local  temperance 


86  THE  LIBERATOR:    WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

society,  a  new  heating  plant  for  the  church,  and  bigger  and 
better  Sunday  schools.  The  sight  of  his  angular  figure  loping 
across  the  green  while  he  lectured  a  lagging  companion,  or 
poised  like  a  stump  orator  on  the  edge  of  a  group  of  loiterers, 
afforded  the  townspeople  no  end  of  merriment  and  quickly 
earned  him  the  sobriquet  "  My  Lloyd  Garrulous/1  "He  is, 
withal,  a  great  egotist,"  wrote  the  rival  editor  of  the  Gazette, 
"and  when  talking  of  himself,  displays  the  pert  loquacity  of  a 
blue  jay."  He  brought  with  him  all  the  graces  of  a  Boston 
dandy.  One  week  his  paper  sported  Horatian  odes  to  the 
Green  Mountains,  "those  stupendous  monuments  to  God's 
right  hand,"  the  next,  effusions  of  the  poet  who  declared  him- 
self "Immersed  to  the  eyes  in  love"  with  a  Boston  belle.  Then 
what  were  the  plain  citizens  of  Bennington  to  make  of  lines 
Mice  these? 

Happy  is  he  who  disdains  the  earth, 

And  plumes  his  hopes  for  a  heavenly  birth,— 

Whose  treasures  are  wisely  laid  above, 
SeaTd  by  the  bond  of  eternal  love*  —  u 

No  one  could  doubt  his  promise  to  agitate  the  slavery  ques- 
tion. He  followed  the  parliamentary  debates  on  West  Indian 
emancipation  and  combed  the  speeches  of  Thomas  Foweli 
Buxton  and  Henry  Peter  Brougham  for  new  ideas,  Slowly 
it  dawned  on  him  that  the  English  abolitionists  had  much  to 
teach  him.  In  x8z8,  after  years  of  planning,  they  had  finally 
combined  into  a  single  society  for  the  emancipation  of  slavery 
throughout  the  Empire*  He  hailed  their  achievement  as  "the 
most  stupendous  scheme  of  benevolence  that  lias  ever  been 
devised  for  the  good  of  mankind"  and  recommended  the 
immediate  formation  of  a  sioiilar  society  in  the  United  States* 
Americans  had  leaders  similar  to  William  WHberforce  and 


BENJAMIN  LUNDY  87 

Thomas  Clarkson  —  they  had  their  Websters  and  Clays  who 
could  "unquestionably  put  a  new  aspect  on  Europe  and 
America."  The  fate  of  his  first  anti-slavery  petition  quickly 
taught  him  that  nothing  like  the  parliamentary  strength  of 
the  English  abolitionists  was  to  be  found  in  Congress. 

Two  weeks  after  his  arrival  in  Bennington  he  printed  a 
notice  of  a  meeting  for  the  purpose  of  preparing  a  petition  to 
Congress  demanding  the  abolition  of  slavery  in  the  District 
of  Columbia.  Without  waiting  for  the  approval  of  the  meet- 
ing he  hastily  printed  a  petition  and  mailed  it  to  every  post- 
master in  the  state  together  with  the  request  that  it  be  re- 
turned with  as  many  signatures  as  possible  before  the  middle 
of  December.  The  petition  stated  that  the  signers  deemed  it 
unnecessary  to  prove  in  detail  the  inconsistency  of  slavery 
with  the  principles  of  American  government  and  the  spirit  of 
Christianity,  and  that  while  they  admitted  that  Congress  had' 
no  power  to  legislate  on  slavery  in  the  states,  they  earnestly 
prayed  that  it  might  remove  the  cancer  "from  the  vitals  of  the 
republic."  On  January  26,  1829,  Garrison's  petition,  bearing 
the  names  of  two  thousand  three  hundred  and  fifty-two 
citizens  of  Vermont,  appeared  before  the  House  Committee 
for  the  District  of  Columbia. 

Meanwhile,  on  January  <5,  1829,  Representative  Charles 
Miner  of  Pennsylvania  took  the  floor  with  resolutions  that 
instructed  the  Committee  for  the  District  of  Columbia  to 
consider  the  feasibility  of  abolishing  the  slave  trade  in  the 
District.  Garrison  followed  the  subsequent  debates  closely, 
even  scrutinizing  the  voting  lists,  and  when  he  discovered  that 
three  New  Engenders  —  James  W.  Ripley  of  Maine,  Jonathan 
Harvey  of  New  Hampshire,  and  Rollin  G  Mallary  of  Ver- 
mont —  had  opposed  the  resolution,  he  opened  fire  with  one  of 
the  bitterest  attacks  of  his  editorial  career.  Who  were  these 
poltroons,  he  asked,  these  sanctimonious  hypocrites  who 


88  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

quoted  the  Bible  to  prove  that  might  makes  right  and  that  it 
was  right  to  destroy  the  souls  of  their  fellow  men? 

Are  we  — in  the  Fifty  Third  Year  of  the  Independence  of  the 
United  States  —  are  we  to  gravely  discuss  the  question,  whether 
all  men  are  born  free  and  equal  as  if  it  were  a  new  doctrine?  Are 
we  to  learn,  whether  the  colored  of  our  race  are  really  brutes 
or  human  beings?  Whether  they  have  bodies  capable  of  suffering, 
or  souls  which  can  never  die?  Whether  it  is  consistent  with  the 
principles  of  our  government  to  shackle  some  of  our  species  with 
galling  chains,  and  to  mar  their  image  by  applying  the  whip  and 
the  brand?  Or  whether  it  is  criminal  to  traffic  in  human  flesh,  or 
degrading  to  buy  and  sell  in  a  national  capacity?12 

Garrison  chose  the  phrases  "colored  of  our  race"  and  "some 

of  our  species"  to  show  that  his  case  for  universal  brotherhood 
rested  on  the  belief  in  a  single  creation*  God  had  created  all 
men  at  the  same  moment,  and  they  were  all  equally  His 
children*  From  this  faith  in  equality  he  never  retreated^  even 
when  nineteenth-century  science  lent  its  support  to  the  theory 
of  the  multiple  creation  of  races. 

Ripley  and  Mallary,  the  "dough-faces'7  who  stood  accused, 
protested  against  such  uncivil  treatment;  but  he  refused  to  give 
an  inch  and  sneered  at  their  contention  that  Northern  agita- 
tion of  the  slavery  question  would  merely  destroy  Southern 
good  will  "So!  we  must  continue  to  traffic  in  human  flesh, 
and  multiply  our  victims,  and  perpetuate  the  damning  stain 
of  oppression,  in  a  national  capacity,  because  an  attempt  to 
remove  the  disgrace  would  again  rouse  up  the  advocates  of 
slavery!  Good  God!  is  this  the  language  of  a  representative 
from  New  England  —  this  his  htimanityy  his  moral  courage, 
his  sense  of  duty?"11 

Presently  there  were  other  complaints  about  his  harsh 


BENJAMIN  LUNDY  89 

language,  the  Ne<w  York  Journal  of  Commerce  taking  the 
lead  in  censuring  him.  He  fought  back  gamely  against  these 
"timid,  half-minded,  shivering4n-the~wind"  editors,  all  of 
them  "contemptible  animals."  "Your  dependent,  calculating 
editor  is  a  wretched  tool  in  the  hands  of  designing  men,"  he 
thundered.  "He  sacrifices  principle  to  interest."14  Actually, 
his  language  had  changed  no  more  than  his  attitude  toward 
wrongdoing.  He  had  been  calling  his  opponents  harsh  names 
and  imputing  evil  motives  to  them  ever  since  he  started  writ- 
ing for  Ephraim  Allen.  Jefferson  had  been  a  "criminal"  and 
John  Neal  a  "buffoon."  Unitarians  were  "infidels"  and  Sab- 
bath-breakers "vicious  degenerates."  He  did  not  need  the 
example  of  British  abolitionists  to  teach  him  how  to  call  a 
spade  a  spade  —  he  simply  applied  the  old  words  to  a  new 
sin.  Privately  he  likened  himself  to  the  Old  Testament  proph- 
ets Isaiah  and  Jeremiah,  who  hurled  imprecations  like  thunder- 
bolts to  awaken  a  sleeping  nation.  His  motives  were  not  un- 
mixed —  strong  language  advertised  both  the  sin  and  the  man 
brave  enough  to  name  it.  But  one  who  feared  "the  terrible 
judgment  of  an  incensed  God"  as  much  as  he  did  worried 
only  that  his  words  might  not  be  strong  enough. 

Lundy  came  North  again  in  January,  1829.  In  his  talks  with 
Garrison  he  proposed  a  merger  of  talents:  he  would  continue 
his  work  with  Haitian  colonization,  traveling  and  lecturing 
while  Garrison  replaced  him  as  resident  editor  of  the  Genius. 
Garrison  readily  agreed.  His  contract  was  due  to  expire  in 
March,  and  now  that  the  election  was  over  his  employers 
had  grown  noticeably  cool  toward  his  abolition  activities. 
Besides,  anti-slavery  promised  to  be  a  full-time  job  and  Lundy 
an  excellent  teacher.  The  two  men  parted,  agreeing  to  join- 
forces  as  soon  as  both  were  ready.  On  March  27,  1829,  Garri- 
son published  his  third  valedictory. 


90  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

To  my  apprehension  the  subject  of  slavery  involves  interest  of 
a  greater  moment  to  our  welfare  as  a  republic,  and  demands  a 
more  prudent  and  minute  investigation,  than  any  other  which 
has  come  before  the  American  people  since  the  Revolutionary 
struggle  —  than  all  others  which  now  occupy  their  attention.  „  .  . 
It  is  true,  many  a  cheek  burns  with  shame  in  view  of  our  national 
inconsistency,  and  many  a  heart  bleeds  for  the  miserable  African; 
it  is  true  examples  of  disinterested  benevolence  and  individual 
sacrifices  are  numerous,  particularly  in  the  Southern  States;  but 
no  systematic*  vigorous  and  successful  measures  have  been  made 
to  overthrow  this  fabric  of  oppression.  I  trust  in  God  that  I  may 
be  the  humble  instrument  of  breaking  at  least  one  chain,  and  re- 
storing one  captive  to  liberty:  it  will  amply  repay  a  life  of  severe 
toil 

Now  there  could  be  no  turning  back.  In  April  he  returned 
to  Boston  to  await  Lundy's  call 


5 
The  Road  to  Prison 


IN  BOSTON  ONCE  MORE  Garrison  found  himself  in  "some- 
what of  a  hobble,  in  a  pecuniary  point  of  view"  and 
made  straight  for  Collier's,  where  he  was  sure  of  free  room 
and  board.  No  sooner  had  he  settled  there  than  his  financial 
embarrassment  grew  acute  —  he  was  served  with  a  warrant 
for  failing  to  attend  the  annual  muster  of  the  Newburyport 
militia.  Five  years  before  in  a  sudden  burst  of  patriotism  he 
had  joined  the  local  company,  although  he  had  never  bothered 
to  train.  Now,  with  his  newly  acquired  pacifist  scruples,  he  re- 
solved to  pay  the  fine.  But  with  what?  He  sat  down  and  wrote 
to  his  friend  Jacob  Horton  in  Newburyport  confessing  that 
he  hadn't  so  much  as  a  farthing  and  asking  Horton  for  eight 
dollars  to  rescue  him  from  his  "unpleasant  dilemma/'1  Thus 
began  the  habit  of  indiscriminate  borrowing  which  marked 
his  financial  dealings  for  the  next  forty  years,  most  of  them 
spent  just  one  jump  ahead  of  his  creditors.  He  spent  money 
freely;  when  it  was  gone,  he  sent  his  pride  uon  a  pilgrimage  to 
Mecca"  and  touched  his  friends  for  loans.  Sometimes  he  paid 
them  back,  but  just  as  often  they  wrote  his  debts  off  as  good 
investments  in  reform.  He  never  mastered  the  intricate  fi- 
nances of  the  Liberator,  whose  accounts  finally  became  so 
jumbled  that  it  took  a  committee  of  unusually  patient  friends 
to  unsnarl  them.  Eventually  Ms  colleagues  came  to  recognize 


92  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

in  him  the  reformer  bent  on  directing  other  people's  lives  but 
requiring  no  small  amount  of  managing  himself. 

He  discovered  that  the  National  Philanthropist  was  being 
edited  by  William  Goodell,  the  hard-eyed  evangelical  re- 
former from  Providence  destined  to  be  first  an  invaluable  ally 
and  then  a  dangerous  enemy.  Garrison  helped  with  the  press- 
work,  and  in  the  evenings,  after  a  day  at  the  composing  desk, 
took  his  friend  on  long  walks  through  Boston,  talking  all  the 
while  about  Lundy  and  slavery.  In  conversations  lasting  long 
Into  the  night  they  swapped  ideas  for  organizing  anti-slavery 
in  New  England.  Their  ignorance  helped  to  reduce  the  ques- 
tion to  the  manageable  proportions  of  Christian  conduct.  If 
the  gospel  spelled  equality  before  God,  if  the  Declaration  of 
Independence  proclaimed  equality  before  the  law,  then  how 
could  slaveholders  be  both  Christians  and  democrats?  If  Chris- 
tianity and  Infidelity  were  incompatible,  where  was  the  middle 
ground  between  democracy  and  slavery? 

From  the  outset  Garrison^  hatred  of  slavery  was  an  abstract 
concern  centered  exclusively  on  the  contradiction  of  bondage 
in  a  free  society.  He  did  not  need  to  know  how  slavery 
worked  in  order  to  condemn  it.  Slavery  was  evil,  and  evil 
could  never  produce  good  — it  was  that  simple.  He  won 
Goodell  over  to  this  view  just  as  Lundy  had  converted  him. 
When  the  National  Philanthropist  folded  in  August,  1829, 
Goodell  returned  to  New  York  to  spread  his  friend's  ideas 
and  help  form  a  national  anti-slavery  society* 

In  June,  1829,  Garrison  accepted  an  invitation  from  the 
American  Colonization  Society  to  deliver  the  annual  Fourth 
of  July  address  in  Park  Street  Church.  Here  was  what  he  had 
been  waiting  for,  his  first  chance,  at  twenty-three,  to  reach  a 
wider  audience  than  the  handful  of  reformers  who  gathered 
at  Collier's.  Carefully  he  drafted  his  speech,  revising  it  again 
and  again  until  it  satisfied  him*  It  was  a  long  address  —  too 


THE  ROAD  TO  PRISON 93 

long,  he  admitted,  for  easy  listening  but  barely  sufficient  to  do 
justice  to  his  momentous  subject.  He  trembled  at  the  thought 
of  speaking  before  an  audience  that  "bids  fair  to  be  over- 
whelming." John  Pierpont  had  composed  an  ode  for  the  occa- 
sion, and  Whittier  and  Goodell  promised  to  attend;  but  most 
of  his  listeners  would  be  members  of  the  staid  Congregational 
Society  prepared  to  accept  colonization  as  an  unpleasant  duty 
but  not  even  remotely  interested  in  abolition.  For  these  faint- 
hearted he  promised  some  "severe  animadversions"  that  might 
offend  "though  not  reasonably."2 

His  sponsor,  the  American  Colonization  Society,  symbol- 
ized the  confusion  of  American  thinking  on  slavery  before 
1830.  The  philosophy  of  the  colonizationists  developed  logi- 
cally out  of  the  equivocal  views  of  the  Revolutionary  gener- 
ation and  its  chief  spokesman,  Thomas  Jefferson.  Jefferson 
hated  slavery  both  in  principle  and  in  fact.  He  believed  that 
even  if  it  were  proven  that  Negroes  were  inherently  inferior 
to  whites,  it  did  not  follow  that  slavery  was  either  just  or 
right  —  "whatever  be  their  degree  of  talent,  it  is  no  measure 
of  their  rights"  Yet  he  was  by  no  means  sure  that  the  Negro 
was  inferior.  He  set  out  to  study  the  race  carefully,  observing 
their  actions  and  accomplishments,  seeking  information  where- 
ever  he  could  find  it  on  the  mental  capacities  of  both  slaves 
and  freedmen.  The  further  he  pursued  his  investigations,  how- 
ever, the  more  certain  he  grew  of  the  inferiority  of  the  Negro. 
He  was  convinced  that  "the  whole  commerce  between  master 
and  slave  is  a  perpetual  exercise  in  the  most  boisterous  pas- 
sions, the  most  unremitting  despotism  on  the  one  part  and 
degrading  submission  on  the  other,"  and  that  "the  blacks, 
whether  originally  a  distinct  race,  or  made  distinct  by  time 
and  circumstances,  are  inferior  to  the  whites  in  endowments 
of  both  mind  and  body."8  It  was  impossible  for  both  races  to 
live  together.  The  only  solution  lay  in  educating  the  Negro, 


94  THE  LIBERATOR:    WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

preparing  him  for  self-government,  and  then  returning  him 
to  his  native  Africa.  In  Jefferson's  mind,  as  in  the  view  of  the 
American  Colonization  Society  of  which  he  approved,  benev- 
olence and  expediency  joined  hands, 

Jefferson's  opinion  of  the  Negro  was  widely  shared  by  the 
churchmen  of  his  generation,  who  in  general  displayed  more 
concern  for  the  sensitivity  of  slaveholders  than  for  the  condi- 
tion of  their  slaves.  They  agreed  with  the  Jeffcrsonian  hu- 
manitarians that  the  Negro  was  totally  unfit  for  democratic 
society  and  feared  lest  an  ignorant  and  vicious  colored  popu- 
lation destroy  white  freedom.  They  thought  of  colonization 
as  a  kind  of  national  blood  purge,  drastic  therapy  to  restore 
the  health  of  the  body  politic.  The  American  Colonization 
Society  was  an  offspring  of  the  mating  of  these  vague  Chris- 
tian sentiments  with  the  instinct  for  national  self-preservation, 
a  sickly  child  of  eighteenth-century  philanthropy.  Jefferson's 
generation  could  never  bring  itself  to  believe  in  the  "self- 
evident  truths"  of  racial  equality  proclaimed  in  the  Declara- 
tion of  Independence,  and  the  American  clergy  had  never 
troubled  themselves  with  such  a  pernicious  abstraction  to  be- 
gin with.  It  was  left  to  another  age  —  the  ante-bellum  gener- 
ation of  Garrison  and  his  abolitionists  —  to  apply  the  truth  of 
equality  literally. 

Efforts  in  behalf  of  colonization  dated  from  1800,  when  the 
Virginia  Assembly  in  secret  session  passed  a  resolution  em- 
powering the  governor  to  correspond  with  the  President  of 
rthe  United  States  "on  the  subject  of  purchasing  lands  without 
the  Hmits  of  this  State,  whither  persons  obnoxious  to  the  laws 
or  dangerous  to  the  peace  of  society  may  be  removed/1  Jef- 
ferson responded  enthusiastically  to  the  Virginia  proposal 
and  suggested  that  in  the  event  that  no  suitable  haven  could 
be  found  on  the  North  American  continent,  "Africa  would 
oifer  a  last  and  undoubted  resort/*4  He  corresponded  with 


THE  ROAD  TO  PRISON  95 

the  British  government  and  the  governors  of  Sierra  Leone, 
and  even  considered  the  newly  purchased  Louisiana  territory 
as  a  possible  asylum  for  the  blacks.  There  the  matter  rested, 
however,  until  1816,  when  General  Charles  Mercer,  one  of 
the  original  architects  of  the  Virginia  plan,  pledged  himself 
to  revive  the  secret  resolutions  of  1800  and  set  colonization 
in  motion.5 

On  January  i,  1817,  the  American  Colonization  Society 
held  its  first  election  of  officers.  Bushrod  Washington  was 
elected  president,  and  vice-presidencies  were  scattered  among 
twelve  members  from  nine  states.  Lest  there  be  any  misunder- 
standing among  the  members  as  to  the  purpose  of  the  Society, 
Henry  Clay,  a  charter  member  and  vice-president,  reminded 
his  colleagues  at  the  first  session  that  "it  was  not  proposed  to 
deliberate  upon  or  consider  at  all,  any  question  of  emancipa- 
tion, or  that  which  was  connected  with  the  abolition  of  slav- 
ery." Upon  that  condition  alone,  he  continued,  the  many 
gentlemen  present  from  the  South  and  West  had  attended  and 
could  be  expected  to  cooperate.6  John  Randolph  quickly 
echoed  Clay's  admonition,  adding  that  "it  had  not  been  suffi- 
ciently insisted  on  with  a  view  to  obtain  the  cooperation  of 
all  the  citizens  of  the  United  States,  not  only  that  this  meeting 
does  not  in  any  wise  affect  the  question  of  Negro  Slavery,  but, 
as  far  as  it  goes,  must  materially  tend  to  secure  the  property  of 
every  master  in  the  United  States  over  his  slaves."7  The  So- 
ciety at  the  outset  limited  itself  to  the  removal  of  the  "idle, 
vicious  and  degraded  blacks"  who  "sally  forth  from  their 
coverts,  beneath  the  obscurity  of  night  and  plunder  the  rich 
proprietors  of  the  valleys"  or  "infest  the  suburbs  of  towns  and 
cities."8  The  Northern  clergy  joined  in  declaring  the  free 
Negro  a  national  menace,  and  these  opinions  soon  received 
the  official  sanction  of  the  society.  At  the  seventh  annual 
meeting  of  the  society  in  1823  Robert  Goodloe  Harper  sum- 


96  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

marized  the  objects  of  colonization  as  first,  the  relief  from  a 
population  "pregnant  with  future  danger  and  present  in- 
convenience," second,  the  removal  of  "a  great  public  evil," 

and  finally,  the  diffusion  of  "the  blessings  of  knowledge  and 
freedom  on  a  continent  that  now  contains  150  millions  of 
people,  plunged  in  all  the  degradation  of  idolatry,  superstition, 
and  ignorance,"9  Just  how  the  degraded  freeclman  would 
Christianize  a  dark  continent  and  enlighten  its  inhabitants 
neither  Harper  nor  his  fellow  colonizationists  cared  to  say. 

Despite  the  roseate  predictions  of  its  founder  the  achieve- 
ments of  the  Colonization  Society  in  its  first  dozen  years  were 
not  impressive.  Between  1820  and  1830  only  1420  Negroes 
were  returned  to  Africa.  Until  1827  all  the  emigrants  were 
free  Negroes;  after  that  date  the  number  included  slaves  who 
had  received  their  freedom  on  condition  that  they  be  de- 
ported. The  expenditures  of  the  society  for  this  decade 
amounted  to  $106,367.72,  or  roughly  seventy-five  dollars  for 
every  Negro  deported-  The  Upper  South  led  in  the  number 
of  emigrants,  Virginia  sending  580  and  North  Carolina,  400- 
South  Carolina,  Georgia,  and  Mississippi,  where  slavery  was 
most  profitable,  sent  a  combined  total  of  73  deportees,  Of  the 
first  consignment  of  84  blacks  expatriated  in  1820,  24  died* 
The  mortality  rate  for  Negroes  transported  during  the  rainy 
season  continued  to  be  one  in  four,  while  for  those  lucky 
enough  to  be  deported  in  the  dry  season  it  was  one  in  six*10 
By  1829  Southerners  were  justly  complaining  of  the  cruel 
absurdity  of  the  scheme  and  Northerners  of  its  effects  in 
strengthening  slavery.  Both  were  right.  In  trying  to  be  all 
things  to  all  men  the  Colonization  Society  had  succeeded  only 
in  entangling  its  members  in  a  monstrous  contradiction;  their 
humanitarianism  had  fashioned  an  inefficient  and  inhuman 
system.  This  was  the  institution  that  requested  Garrison's  serv- 
ices on  July  4,  1829. 


THE  ROAD  TO  PRISON 97 

The  Park  Street  address  contained  the  germ  of  almost  every 
argument  Garrison  ever  used.  The  occasion  was  a  coloniza- 
tion meeting  but  the  speaker  was  already  an  abolitionist.  He 
began  by  defining  slavery  as  a  national  sin  and  turned  immedi- 
ately to  an  indictment  of  American  religion.  What  was  Chris- 
tianity doing  for  the  nation?  It  explored  the  isles  of  the  seas 
in  search  of  converts  but  ignored  the  slave  languishing  in 
misery  at  home.  It  formed  charities  into  golden  links  of  be- 
nevolence but  allowed  the  black  man  to  perish  in  iron  chains. 
Could  Christians  contend  with  cannibals  and  yet  be  conquered 
by  their  own  children?  "I  will  say,  finally,  that  I  despair  of 
the  Republic  while  slavery  exists  therein.  .  .  .  our  destruction 
is  not  only  possible  but  almost  certain."11 

Suppose,  he  went  on,  that  by  a  miracle  all  the  slaves  were 
suddenly  made  white?  What  would  his  audience  do  then? 
"Would  you  shut  your  eyes  upon  their  sufferings,  and  calmly 
talk  of  constitutional  limitations?"  To  keep  men  in  chains  be- 
cause of  their  color  was  beneath  contempt.  "This  is  their 
country  by  birth,  not  by  adoption.  Their  children  possess 
the  same  inherent  and  unalienable  rights  as  ours,  and  it  is  a 
crime  of  the  blackest  dye  to  load  them  with  fetters."  The 
occasion  was  the  fifty-third  anniversary  of  the  signing  of  the 
Declaration  of  Independence  and  a  time  to  remind  Americans 
of  the  glaring  contradiction  between  their  creed  and  their 
actions.  "In  view  of  it  I  am  ashamed  of  my  country.  I  am 
sick  of  our  unmeaning  declarationan  praise  of  liberty  and 
equality,  of  our  hypocritical  cant  about  the  unalienable  rights 
of  man." 

This  was  not  the  language  of  moderation  so  dear  to  the 
Colonization  Society,  but  an  appeal  to  higher  law  that  could 
prove  fatal  to  the  spirit  of  good  will  it  celebrated.  When  he 
spoke  of  "sacred  principles,"  Garrison  meant  nothing  less 
than  a  body  of  moral  truths  so  distinct  and  compelling  as  to 


98  THE  LIBERATOR!    WILLIAM LLOYDGARRISON 

peed  no  proof.  Far  from  being  a  philosopher,  he  was  not  even 
fa  very  logical  thinker:  his  habit  of  avoiding  intellectual  com- 
plexities was  already  deeply  ingrained.  All  of  his  ethical  ideas, 
grounded  as  they  were  in  a  profound  anti-intellectual  bias, 
proved  impervious  to  analysis,  but  as  he  explained  them  now 
they  seemed  simple  and  self-evident, 

The  foundation  of  his  moral  system  was  an  unshakable  faith 
in  a  supreme  law  of  God  binding  everywhere  and  at  all  times. 
He  believed  that  this  same  divine  law  manifested  itself  in  the 
revelations  of  the  Bible  and  in  the  reason  of  men.  Since  all 
law  began  in  the  immutable  will  of  God  it  followed  that 
divine  law  and  the  law  of  nature  were  really  one  and  the  same 
command.  In  the  final  judgment  all  man-made  law  —  all  hu- 
man conduct  —  had  to  be  tested  by  the  divine  standard.  It 
mattered  little,  therefore,  whether  slavery  was  measured  by 
Biblical  precept  or  the  "self-evident"  truths  of  the  Declara- 
tion of  Independence.  In  either  case  it  failed  of  God's  ap- 
proval All  men,  individually  and  collectively,  could  judge 
when  their  actions  harmonized  with  higher  law,  but  the  best 
guide  to  the  moral  life  was  the  individual  conscience.  In  ap- 
pealing directly  to  this  moral  sense  in  each  of  his  listeners 
Garrison  was  in  effect  inviting  them  to  practice  a  kind  of 
philosophical  anarchy.  He  was  aware  only  of  making  piety 
rather  than  utility  the  standard  of  human  conduct,  but  those 
of  his  listeners  who  were  wiser  than  he  recognized  his  words 
for  what  they  were  —  a  plea  for  Christian  perf ection* 

As  a  child  of  light  he  conceived  of  the  religious  sense  as  the 
universal  property  of  mankind*  This  religious  sense,  which 
he  thought  of  simply  as  an  awareness  of  divine  presence, 
directed  men  through  their  consciences.  It  was  conscience 
alone  that  gave  men  their  unique  dignity,  defined  them  as 
humans  and  determined  their  worth.  Once  they  understood 
the  divine  purpose  they  could  carry  out  God's  promises  of  a 


THE  ROAD  TO  PRISON 99 

final  triumph  of  righteousness  over  sin,  life  over  death,  spirit 
over  matter.  Slaveholders,  by  refusing  to  acknowledge  this 
human  quality  in  the  Negro,  denied  the  fundamental  religious 
sense  of  mankind.  They  were  practicing  atheists.  Slavery 
could  thus  be  explained  as  the  willful  repudiation  of  God's 
commands  by  unbelievers.  For  the  flouting  of  divine  law 
Garrison  held  the  slaveowner  directly  responsible;  in  his 
view  the  master  was  an  evil  man  who  had  closed  his  heart  to 
the  word  of  God.  The  sinner  embodied  the  sin.  It  was  just  this 
identification  of  the  sinner  with  the  sin  that  troubled  his 
colonization  audience,  who  saw  slavery  as  an  incidental  so- 
cial evil  best  cured  by  removing  the  Negro.  They  were  not 
prepared  to  grant  his  cardinal  principle  —  that  slavery  was 
"inhumane"  because  it  denied  to  Negroes  the  dignity  of  men 
—  nor  could  they  accept  his  reading  of  the  Declaration  of 
Independence. 

As  he  produced  it  for  the  examination  of  his  audience  the 
Declaration  of  Independence  emerged  not  as  an  elaborate 
metaphysical  discussion  but  as  a  simple,  common-sense  ap- 
proximation of  the  law  of  God.  He  was  oblivious  to  the 
dangers  of  identifying  reason  with  revelation  or  Scripture 
with  natural  rights.  He  only  knew  that  the  rights  of  life, 
liberty,  and  the  pursuit  of  happiness  spoke  to  the  rational 
faculties  of  men  just  as  God's  word  appealed  to  the  universal 
religious  sense.  Somehow  —  he  was  not  sure  how  —  the  Bible 
and  the  Declaration  fused  into  a  mystical  corpus  of  higher 
law,  the  "injunctions  of  Holy  Writ"  upheld  "the  common 
dictates  of  humanity." 

In  citing  Scripture  as  the  final  authority  against  slavery  he 
did  not  mean  to  include  all  of  the  Old  Testament  or  even 
those  parts  of  the  New  which  appeared  to  sanction  slavery. 
The  trouble  with  plenary  inspiration,  he  had  discovered,  was 
that  it  solved  nothing.  To  every  passage  exhorting  Christians 


loo  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

to  proclaim  liberty  to  the  captives,  slaveholders  could  counter 
with  Paul's  injunction  to  treat  one's  slaves  mercifully.  The 
truth  was  that  Garrison  was  launched  on  a  process  of  interpre- 
tative reading  of  the  Bible  that  could  only  end  in  the  rejection 
of  all  Scripture  except  the  gospel  of  Jesus.  The  Park  Street 
address  took  an  advanced  position  against  the  pro-slavery 
forces  from  which  there  was  no  retreat. 

He  closed  his  two-hour  performance  with  an  appeal  to  the 
churches.  "Let  them  pour  out  their  supplications  to  Heaven 
in  behalf  of  the  slave.  Prayer  is  omnipotent:  its  breath  can 
melt  the  adamantine  rocks,  its  touch  can  break  the  stoutest 
chains."  In  years  to  come  his  bitter  and  unreasoning  hatred 
of  the  American  churches  puzzled  and  offended  his  more 
moderate  followers  who  never  understood  how  great  had 
been  his  initial  belief  in  their  efficacy.  In  1829  he  was  certain 
that  once  Christian  opinion  was  brought  to  bear  on  slavery 
it  would  not  survive  another  day.  Let  Christians  awake,  there- 
fore, and  arm  for  a  holy  contest.  "I  call  upon  the  churches  of 
the  living  God  to  lead  this  great  enterprise.  If  the  soul  be 
immortal,  priceless,  save  it  from  remediless  woe." 

Most  of  Garrison's  audience  thought  this  note  of  alarm  ill- 
considered  and  premature.  What  was  it  this  young  man  said 
about  disunion  —  "the  fault  is  not  ours  if  a  separation  eventu- 
ally take  place"?  If,  as  they  devoutly  believed,  the  American 
political  genius  was  most  perfectly  expressed  in  the  art  of 
accommodation  and  compromise,  then  here  was  the  kind  of 
misguided  zeal  the  society  could  well  do  without.  As  for  his 
wild  notions  of  inaugurating  a  mass  movement  against  slavery, 
they  could  do  without  this  too.  The  Park  Street  address, 
though  it  excited  misgivings  among  the  colonizationists, 
scarcely  stirred  the  millpond  surface  of  Boston  society* 
Goodell  dutifully  reported  the  speech  in  the  failing  National 
Philanthropist,  but  before  Garrison  realized  how  Httle  he  had 


THE  ROAD  TO  PRISON  IOI 

impressed  the  city,  Lundy's  call  came  and  he  hurried  off  to 
Baltimore, 

Lundy  had  already  announced  the  new  partnership  and 
recommended  his  colleague  as  a  man  "in  every  way  qualified" 
as  an  anti-slavery  crusader.  No  sooner  did  Garrison  appear, 
however,  than  he  began  to  object  to  colonization,  explaining 
to  Lundy  that  since  July  he  had  had  some  sobering  second 
thoughts  on  the  justice  of  exporting  the  Negroes  either  to 
Africa  or  to  Haiti.  The  whole  scheme,  he  announced,  looked 
like  a  fraudulent  device  for  stamping  the  Negro  with  the  mark 
of  inferiority.  He  was  sure  now  that  nothing  short  of  total  and 
immediate  emancipation  would  satisfy  the  demands  of  Chris- 
tian behavior.  Would  this  opinion  obstruct  Lundy's  Haitian 
project  and  could  the  two  men  consent  to  disagree?  "Well," 
Lundy  replied,  "thee  may  put  thy  initials  to  thy  articles,  and 
I  will  put  my  initials  to  mine,  and  each  will  bear  his  own 
burden."  "Very  well,  that  will  answer,"  Garrison  rejoined, 
"and  I  will  be  able  to  free  my  soul." 

He  boarded  with  Lundy  at  the  home  of  two  Quaker  ladies 
in  Market  Street,  where  he  met  with  a  new  kind  of  religious 
reformer.  Most  of  Lundy's  friends  and  associates  were  Quak- 
ers and  free  Negroes  —  John  Needles,  a  devout  Friend  who 
had  helped  Lundy  and  would  help  Garrison  in  the  future, 
William  Watltins,  Jacob  Greener  and  his  sons,  free  Negroes 
and  better  enemies  of  the  Colonization  Society.  The  atmos- 
phqre  in  Market  Street  differed  sharply  from  the  professional 
air  in  Collier's  nest  of  reformers,  for  Lundy's  friends  exhibited 
little  of  the  studied  benevolence  and  organizational  zeal  of 
the  Boston  evangelicals.  Their  practical  piety  and  simple  ways 
contrasted  markedly  with  the  smugness  and  self-assurance  of 
the  new  arrival  It  was  not  long  before  Garrison  saw  that 
these  quiet  people  with  their  apostoMc  ideas  of  love  and  sense 
of  personal  cooun&meat  had  much  to  teach  him* 


IO2  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

In  September  the  two  editors  set  to  work  supplying  the 
Genius  of  Universal  Emancipation  with  a  new  face.  The 
paper,  enlarged  and  expanded,  now  appeared  every  week. 
Beneath  an  American  eagle  perched  on  the  masthead  stood 
Garrison's  motto,  the  quotation  from  the  Declaration  of  Inde- 
pendence proclaiming  the  equality  of  all  men.  For  the  first 
time  in  his  career  he  was  free  from  the  arduous  work  of  type- 
setting and  proofreading.  The  Genius  was  commissioned  to 
the  Baltimore  firm  of  Lucas  and  Deaver,  printers  obliging 
enough  to  accept  the  work  on  credit. 

From  the  beginning  it  was  clear  that  the  two  men  had 
agreed  to  go  their  own  ways.  Lundy  launched  a  series  of 
articles  on  Haiti  describing  in  radiant  terms  the  condition  of 
the  expatriates  there.  He  explained  that  the  situation  was  much 
improved  over  the  three  years  previous:  Haitian  proprietors 
were  gradually  becoming  reconciled  to  granting  emigrants 
land,  and  the  government  was  beginning  to  take  an  active 
interest  in  their  welfare.  "There  the  color  of  their  skin  will 
not  be  looked  upon  as  a  mark  of  degradation,"  Lundy  wrote. 
Happily  surveying  the  cloudless  skies  over  Haiti  he  ignored 
the  storm  his  young  associate  was  busy  brewing  right  in 
Baltimore.  Garrison  had  elected  to  settle  his  accounts  with 
the  Colonization  Society  in  his  opening  editorial. 

He  approached  his  subject  by  the  devious  route  of  praise. 
No  one,  he  declared,  was  a  truer  friend  to  the  Colonization 
Society  than  he.  But  the  work  of  colonization  was  exceed- 
ingly dilatory  and  uncertain.  "Viewed  as  an  auxiliary,  it  de- 
serves encouragement;  but  as  a  remedy  it  is  altogether  in- 
adequate." The  results  of  ten  years'  work  were  far  from 
encouraging.  "For  my  own  part,  I  do  not  believe  that  the 
removal  of  the  great  body  of  the  blacks  can  be  effected  by 
voluntary  contributions  or  individual  sacrifice;  and  if  we  de- 
pend alone  upon  the  efforts  of  colonization  societies,  slavery 


THE  ROAD  TO  PRISON 


will  never  be  exterminated."  In  place  of  the  ambiguous  phrases 
of  the  society  he  offered  the  following  propositions: 

1.  That  the  slaves  are  entitled  to  immediate  and  complete 
emancipation:  consequently,  to  hold  them  longer  in  bond- 
age is  both  tyrannical  and  unnecessary. 

2.  That  the  question  of  expediency  has  nothing  to  do  with 
that  of  right,  and  it  is  not  for  those  who  tyrannise  to  say 
when  they  may  safely  break  the  chains  of  their  sub- 
jects. .  .  . 

3.  That,  on  the  ground  of  expediency,  it  would  be  wiser  to 
set  all  the  slaves  free  to-day  than  tomorrow  —  or  next 
week  than  next  year.  To  think  of  removing  them  all  out 
of  the  land  is  visionary.  .  .  .  Hence,  the  sooner  they  re- 
ceive the  benefits  of  instruction,  the  better  for  them  and 
us.  We  can  educate  two  millions  of  slaves,  now,  with 
more  facility  and  success  than  four  millions  at  the  expira- 
tion of  twenty-five  years.  Give  them  liberation,  and  every 
inducement  to  revolt  is  removed;  give  them  employment 
as  free  laborers,  and  their  industry  will  be  more  produc- 
tive and  beneficial  than  mines  of  gold;  give  them  religious 
and  secular  instruction,  restrict  them  with  suitable  regula- 
tions, and  they  will  make  peaceable  citizens.  .  .  . 

4.  That,  as  a  very  large  proportion  of  our  colored  population 
were  born  on  American  soil,  they  are  at  liberty  to  choose 
their  own  dwelling  place,  and  we  possess  no  right  to  use 
coercive  measures  in  their  removal.12 

As  with  so  many  of  Garrison's  later  pronunciamentos  the 
editorial  clarity  was  more  apparent  than  real.  "Immediate  and 
complete  emancipation"  —  what  did  it  mean?  In  spite  of  his 
temerity  he  did  not  know.  Thus  the  phrase  "suitable  regula- 
tions," which  signified  that  he  had  no  plan,  that  all  plans  were 
matters  of  mere  "expediency"  with  which  he  need  not  con- 
cern himself.  He  was  concerned  solely  with  the  abolition  of 


IOA  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

the  status  of  slavery.  What  followed  then,  whether  appren- 
ticeship, forced  labor,  copyhold,  progressive  enfranchisement, 
mattered  little.  Let  Americans  admit  that  slavery  was  a  sin, 
he  seemed  to  be  saying,  and  they  would  find  a  solution.  Be- 
hind all  his  radical  statements  lurked  the  old  evangelical  argu- 
ment that  God  in  His  infinite  mercy  and  wisdom  would  find 
a  way  if  only  men  believed  in  Him.  But  this  was  mere  equivo- 
cation. Did  Garrison  mean  to  raise  the  slaves  to  full  citizen- 
ship in  one  bold  stroke?  Or  did  he  contemplate  an  indefinite 
period  of  education  and  preparation?  How  were  Negroes  to 
be  trained  for  "productive''  labor  and  the  duties  of  freemen? 
How  long  would  they  be  second-class  citizens?  Would  they 
be  the  wards  of  the  state  or  the  responsibility  of  the  federal 
government?  As  yet  these  questions  were  hypothetical;  some- 
day they  would  become  real  and  need  answers.  "Immediate 
emancipation"  followed  by  "suitable  regulations"  was  not 
freedom  but  slavery  under  another  name.  Yet  without  some 
plan  or  method  immediate  emancipation  was  only  a  cruel 
joke.  In  his  haste  to  disown  the  Colonization  Society  he  failed 
to  recognize  this  dilemma.  It  seemed  to  him  that  only  the 
principle  mattered.  "If  justice  requires  instant  abolition,  then 
surely  it  is  proper  to  obey  its  mandates.  Don't  talk  of  expedi- 
ency as  an  off  set;  as  if  it  were  expedient  to  persevere  in  crime, 
year  after  year!  Never  ...  do  evil,  that  good  may  come."" 
Beyond  this  Christian  precept  he  was  not  prepared  to  venture. 
Garrison  was  not  the  first  of  the  American  abolitionists  to 
espouse  immediate  emancipation.  Probably  the  first  American 
advocate  of  immediatism  was  George  Bourne,  an  English 
emigrant  who  settled  in  New  York  City  after  seven  years  of 
observing  slavery  at  first  hand  in  Virginia,  Bourne's  chief 
work,  The  Book  and  Slavery  Irreconcilable,  which  appeared 
in  1815,  was  an  uncompromising  indictment  of  slavery  which 
even  Garrison's  could  not  surpass.  Bourne  leveled  his  axgu- 


THE  ROAD  TO  PRISON  105 

ments  directly  at  the  personality  of  the  slaveholder.  "Every 
man  who  holds  Slaves  and  who  pretends  to  be  a  Christian  or 
Republican,"  he  protested,  "is  either  an  incurable  Idiot  who 
cannot  distinguish  good  from  evil,  or  an  obdurate  sinner  who 
resolutely  defies  every  social,  moral  and  divine  requisition.'714 

Beside  this  fiery  arraignment  Garrison's  declaration  in  the 
Genius  of  Universal  Emancipation  seems  like  pale  copy.  Al- 
though Garrison  never  admitted  a  debt  to  Bourne's  pamphlet, 
it  would  be  strange  indeed  if  a  convert  with  his  literary  tastes 
who  pored  over  Congressional  and  Parliamentary  debates  and 
studied  the  works  of  abolitionist  pioneers  had  not  read  it  by 
1829.  Another  argument  for  immediate  emancipation  with 
which  Garrison  may  have  been  familiar  was  James  Duncan's 
Treatise  on  Slavery,  printed  in  Indiana  in  1824.  Duncan  con- 
demned gradual  manumission  as  "moral  turpitude,"  and,  like 
Bourne  before  him,  prescribed  immediate  emancipation  as  the 
only  sure  remedy  for  "heinous  sin." 

If  by  "immediate  emancipation"  Garrison  meant  only  the 
immediate  adoption  of  laws  providing  for  gradual  emancipa- 
tion, priority  is  even  less  his  due.  There  were  a  host  of  anti- 
slavery  pioneers  before  his  entrance  into  the  field  who  had 
advocated  one  form  or  another  of  immediate  anti-slavery 
legislation.  In  1812  Amos  Stoddard  strongly  urged  the  pas- 
sage of  laws  for  freeing  the  post  nati.  A  few  years  later  Est- 
wick  Evans  proposed  that  the  federal  government  purchase 
all  slaves  and  grant  them  their  freedom  when  they  had  worked 
out  their  purchase  price.  Various  other  plans  for  immediate 
action  were  offered  after  1815  by  John  Adams,  John  Jay, 
Daniel  Raymond,  Edward  Settle,  and  Samuel  Sewall.  Thus 
by  1829  immediate  emancipation,  though  by  no  means  a 
widely  shared  doctrine,  had  been  propounded  in  some  form  a 
number  of  times  by  men  every  bit  as  zealous  as  Lundy's 
assistant. 


106  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

Without  stopping  to  examine  his  new  principle  in  the  light 
of  the  actual  conditions  of  slavery  in  Baltimore,  he  turned  to 
perfecting  his  techniques  for  agitating  immediate  abolition. 
Soon  he  discovered  a  set  of  simple  rules  for  indoctrinating  the 
American  public,  which  he  taught  to  a  whole  generation  of 
anti-slavery  radicals.  The  first  and  most  important  of  the 
Garrisonian  axioms  was  his  command  not  to  explain  but  to 
denounce.  "Slavery  is  a  monster,"  he  taught  the  readers  of 
the  Genius,  "and  he  must  be  treated  as  such  —  hunted  down 
bravely,  and  despatched  at  a  blow."  Next  inculcate  a  sense 
of  guilt,  collective  and  individual,  by  emphasizing  the  barbar- 
ity of  slavery.  "We  read  of  the  dark  ages,  and  wonder  at  the 
depravity  of  mankind;  yet  we  now  defend  practices,  and 
nourish  vices  which  throw  as  disastrous  an  eclipse  over  our 
land,  as  any  that  brooded  over  the  earlier  period  of  our 
world."  Then  stress  the  disparity  between  American  pro- 
fession and  American  practice.  "We  panegyrize  our  freedom 
and  equality,  as  a  knave  boasts  of  his  honesty,  or  a  courtezan 
of  her  chastity.  Our  Declaration  of  Independence  declares, 
that  'all  men  are  born  equal'  —  but  it  lies,  in  the  face  of  heaven 
and  earth,  if  our  practices  are  defensible;  and  the  lie  is  re- 
peated annually,  all  over  the  land,  by  a  multitude  of  men  who 
make  high  pretensions  to  the  truth."15  Spare  neither  North  nor 
South  in  your  censures.  "It  is  a  solemn  truth,  that  in  New 
England  the  free  blacks  have  fewer  privileges,  and  are  treated 
more  contemptuously  than  those  in  the  slave  states."16  Chide 
the  people  for  their  failure  to  perform  their  duty  as  citizens 
by  voting  down  slavery.  "How  have  they  met  their  responsi- 
bility? By  undutifully  absenting  themselves  from  the  polls! 
by  sinking  into  a  culpable  and  despairing  apathy!  by  sur- 
rendering their  arms  without  a  show  of  resistance!  by  re- 
fusing to  co-operate  at  a  time  when  every  thing  valuable  is  at 
stake."17  Finally,  reprobate  the  lack  of  Christian,  zeal  in  the 


THE  ROAD  TO   PRISON  107 

American  churches  and  denounce  the  ministers  responsible 
for  this  moral  laxity. 

With  reverence,  and  in  the  name  of  God,  we  ask  what  sort  of 
religion  is  now  extant  among  us?  Certainly  not  such  as  cheered 
the  prophets  through  the  gloom  of  the  old  dispensation  .  .  .  not 
such  as  Jesus  laid  down  his  life  to  vindicate.  ...  It  is  a  religion 
which  complacently  tolerates  open  adultery,  oppression,  robbery, 
and  murder!  seldom  or  never  lifting  up  a  wavering  voice,  or  a 
note  of  remonstrance,  or  propitiatory  sacrifice!  —  a  religion, 
which  is  graduated  by  the  corrupt,  defective  laws  of  the 
State,  and  not  by  the  pure,  perfect  laws  of  God!  —  a  religion, 
which  quadrates  with  the  natural  depravity  of  the  heart,  giving 
license  to  sin,  restraining  no  lust,  mortifying  not  the  body,  en- 
gendering selfishness  and  cruelty!  —  a  religion  which  walks  in 
'silver  slippers,'  on  a  carpeted  floor,  having  thrown  off  the  burden 
of  the  cross,  and  changed  the  garments  of  humiliation  for  the 
splendid  vestments  of  pride!  —  a  religion  which  has  no  courage, 
no  faithfulness,  no  self-denial,  deeming  it  better  to  give  heed  unto 
men  than  unto  God!  Verily,  this  generation  will  have  a  solemn 
account  to  give  in  the  great  and  terrible  day  of  judgment.18 

It  was  no  accident  that  his  formula  for  anti-slavery  agitation 
contained  the  ingredients  of  martyrdom  complete  with  crown 
of  thorns.  In  the  autumn  of  1 829  the  brig  Francis  out  of  New- 
buryport  cleared  Baltimore  harbor  bound  for  New  Orleans 
with  a  cargo  of  slaves  for  the  Louisiana  sugar  plantations.  The 
Francis  was  owned  by  one  Francis  Todd,  a  well-to-do  New- 
buryport  merchant  with  considerable  prestige  and,  as  it  turned 
out,  a  very  thin  skin.  Her  captain  was  Nicholas  Brown,  a 
Yankee  skipper  with  a  long  and  creditable  record  in  the 
coastal  trade  and  a  reputation  as  an  honest  and  humane  skip- 
per. The  slave  cargo  of  the  Francis  was  part  of  a  total  of 
fifty  thousand  Negroes  transported  annually  either  over  the 
mountains  or  down  the  coast  to  the  Gulf  States.  The  principal 


io8  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

effect  in  the  United  States  of  the  prohibition  of  the  inter- 
national slave  trade  had  been  to  increase  the  demand  for  slaves 
from  Virginia  and  Maryland.  As  the  price  of  slaves  rose 
precipitously  so  did  the  number  of  slave-dealers  and  merchants 
in  the  domestic  trade  who  were  not  above  making  an  occa- 
sional slave  voyage  when  business  was  slow.  Todd  was  only 
one  of  a  number  of  New  Englanders  engaged  in  the  domestic 
slave  trade  on  a  part-time  basis,  and  his  cargo  of  eighty-eight 
blacks  was  not  particularly  noteworthy.  But  he  had  the  double 
misfortune  of  hailing  from  Newburyport  and  arousing  the 
curiosity  of  his  fellow  townsman. 

One  of  Garrison's  innovations  in  the  Genius  of  Universal 
Emancipation  was  the  "Black  List,"  a  forerunner  of  the  "Ref- 
uge of  Oppression"  column  in  the  Liberator,  in  which  he 
printed  examples  of  the  barbarities  of  slavery  —  kidnappings, 
whippings,  murders.  In  the  issue  for  November  13,  1829, 
there  appeared  a  notice  of  the  departure  of  the  Francis  with 
the  editor's  caustic  reminder  that  the  ship  was  owned  by  a 
New  England  man.  "So  much  for  New  England  principle!" 
he  scoffed  and  promised  to  allude  to  "this  damning  affair" 
more  particularly  in  his  next  number.  True  to  his  promise,  he 
returned  to  the  Todd  incident  determined  "to  cover  with 
thick  infamy  all  who  were  concerned  in  this  nefarious  busi- 
ness."1* Todd  and  Captain  Brown  he  denounced  as  "highway 
robbers  and  murderers,"  "enemies  of  their  own  species."  "I 
recollect,"  he  continued,  "that  it  was  always  a  mystery  in 
Newburyport  how  Mr.  Todd  contrived  to  make  profitable 
voyages  to  New  Orleans  and  other  places,  when  other  mer- 
chants, with  as  fair  an  opportunity  to  make  money,  and  send- 
ing to  the  same  ports  at  the  same  time,  invariably  made  fewer 
successful  speculations."  Now  the  mystery  was  unraveled. 

Any  man  can  gather  up  riches  if  he  does  not  care  by  what  means 
they  are  obtained.  The  Francis  carried  off  seventy-five  slaves, 


THE  ROAD  TO  PRISON  109 

chained  in  a  narrow  place  between  decks.  Capt.  Brown  originally 
intended  to  take  one  hundred  and  fifty  of  these  unfortunate  crea- 
tures; but  another  hard-hearted  shipmaster  underbid  him  in  the 
price  of  passage  for  the  remaining  moiety. 

He  sent  a  copy  of  the  article  to  the  Nevuburyport  Herald, 
hoping  that  Allen  would  reprint  it,  and  another  to  Todd 
himself. 

Lundy  knew  that  Garrison's  article  veered  dangerously 
near  the  shoals  of  libel.  A  pungent  stylist  in  his  own  right, 
Lundy  had  nevertheless  acquired  the  journalist's  habit  of  stick- 
ing closely  to  the  facts,  and  Garrison's  easy  appropriation  of 
hearsay  discomfited  him  sorely.  This  was  not  the  first  time  he 
had  received  complaints  about  the  junior  editor's  language. 
With  not  a  little  apprehension  they  waited  to  see  what  Todd 
would  do.  He  soon  obliged  them  by  filing  a  suit  for  libel.  A 
month  later,  in  February,  1830,  they  were  presented  with  an- 
other action  by  the  State  of  Maryland  for  "contriving  and 
unlawfully,  wickedly,  and  maliciously  intending  to  hurt,  in- 
jure, and  vilify"  the  Massachusetts  shipowner.  Todd's  civil 
suit  was  postponed  pending  the  outcome  of  the  state's  action 
at  law. 

The  trial  in  which  Lundy  and  Garrison  were  co-defendants 
was  held  on  the  first  day  of  March,  1830,  before  Judge 
Nicholas  Brice  in  the  Baltimore  City  Court.  The  editors  were 
fortunate  in  securing  the  counsel  of  an  able  young  lawyer  of 
liberal  sympathies,  Charles  Mitchell,  who  offered  his  services 
without  charge.  Witnesses  for  the  prosecution  included 
Todd's  Baltimore  agent,  the  pilot  of  the  Francis,  a  customs 
officer,  and  the  printers  of  the  Geniw.  Attempts  by  Lundy 
and  Garrison  to  limit  the  indictment  to  specific  counts  and 
their  demands  for  articles  of  proof  of  libelous  intent  were 
unavailing.  Garrison's  editorial  was  admitted  just  as  he  had 
written  it.  The  prosecution  showed  that  whereas  there  were 


HO  THE  LIBERATOR:    WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

eighty-eight,  not  seventy-five,  slaves  aboard  the  Francis,  none 
of  them  had  been  chained,  but  all  of  them  allowed  their  free- 
dom below  decks,  and  that  they  had  received  humane  treat- 
ment and  had  even  been  permitted  to  hold  daily  prayer 
meetings.  Further  evidence  was  offered  to  show  that  Captain 
Brown  enjoyed  a  reputation  for  kindness  in  the  trade,  and  that 
Todd,  disliking  the  business  of  carrying  human  cargo,  had 
only  agreed  to  the  contract  because,  as  he  put  it,  "freights 
were  dull,  times  hard,  and  money  scarce."  The  prosecuting 
attorney  closed  his  case  by  pointing  out  that  no  law  had  been 
broken  by  Todd  and  Brown  and  that  only  Garrison's  fanati- 
cism and  virulence  could  explain  his  attack. 

Now  if  Garrison  had  possessed  the  instincts  of  a  true  re- 
porter, he  might  have  checked  the  real  story  of  the  loading  of 
the  Francis  and  uncovered  the  facts  which  could  have  cleared 
him.  Subsequent  investigation  revealed  that  the  Negroes,  terri- 
fied at  the  prospect  of  joining  slave  gangs  in  Louisiana,  had 
escaped  to  the  nearby  woods,  where  they  were  finally  recap- 
tured and  driven  half  naked  and  panic-stricken  back  to  the 
ship.  Without  this  damaging  evidence  Mitchell  could  only 
defend  his  clients  in  terms  of  higher  law  and  attempt  to  play 
on  the  sympathies  of  the  jury.  Eloquence  was  not  enough:  it 
took  the  jury  just  fifteen  minutes  to  return  a  verdict  of  guilty. 
A  motion  for  a  new  trial  was  denied,  and  a  judgment  rendered 
fining  Garrison,  now  identified  as  the  sole  author  of  the  of- 
fending editorial,  fifty  dollars  and  costs.  Since  he  lacked  the 
money  to  pay  his  fine  and  the  usually  resourceful  Lundy 
failed  him,  he  had  no  choice  but  to  accept  a  jail  sentence  of 
six  months.  On  April  17,  with  the  inmates'  cries  of  "Fresh 
fish!"  ringing  in  his  ears,  he  strode  into  the  Baltimore  Jail 
calmly  prepared  to  exploit  his  imprisonment  to  the  fullest. 

Lundy  had  been  forced  to  suspend  the  Genius  while  he 
helped  his  friend  fight  the  libel  suit.  He  defended  Garrison 


THE  ROAD  TO  PRISON  III 

to  the  end,  insisting  that  while  there  were  many  of  his  edi- 
torials that  had  not  met  with  his  approval,  Garrison  had  never 
deliberately  flouted  his  wishes.  As  for  their  personal  relation- 
ship, "we  have  ever  cherished  for  each  other  the  kindliest 
feelings  and  mutual  personal  regard.  It  would  be  superfluous 
in  me  to  say  that  he  has  proven  himself  a  faithful  and  able 
coadjutor  in  the  great  and  holy  cause  in  which  we  are  en- 
gaged. —  Even  his  enemies  will  admit  it."20  Garrison  apolo- 
gized neither  to  Lundy  nor  to  his  readers.  His  only  regret,  he 
announced,  was  that  so  far  his  views  on  immediate  emancipa- 
tion had  been  "imperfectly  developed"  and  that,  concerned 
with  the  "cares  and  perplexities  of  the  establishment,"  he  had 
not  succeeded  in  making  his  position  absolutely  clear.  "I  have 
used  strong,  indignant,  vehement  language,  and  direct,  scorch- 
ing reproof.  I  have  nothing  to  recall"21 

Life  behind  bars  began  pleasantly  enough,  as  the  following 
bit  of  calculated  playfulness  written  to  Harriet  Farnham  Hor- 
ton  clearly  shows: 

Baltimore  Jail 
May  12,  1830 

,  .  .  I  am  as  meek  as  any  occupant  of  a  ten-foot  building  in 
our  great  Babel  ...  It  is  true,  I  am  not  the  owner  of  this  huge 
pile,  nor  the  grave  lord-keeper  of  it;  but  then,  I  pay  no  rent  — 
am  bound  to  make  no  repairs  —  and  enjoy  the  luxury  of  inde- 
pendence divested  of  its  cares.  ...  I  sing  as  often,  and  quite  as 
well  as  I  did  before  my  wings  were  clipped. 

To  change  the  figure:  here  I  strut  the  lion  of  the  day,  and,  of 
course,  attract  a  great  number  of  visitors,  as  the  exhibition  is 
gratuitous  —  so  that,  between  the  labors  of  my  brain,  the  conver- 
sation of  my  friends,  and  the  ever  changing  curiosities  of  this 
huge  menagerie,  time  flies  away  astonishingly  swift.  Indeed,  so 
perfectly  agreeable  is  my  confinement,  that  I  have  no  occasion 
to  call  upon  my  philosophy  or  patience.  .  .  ,22 


112  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

Given  the  freedom  of  the  huge  jail,  he  spent  much  of  his 
time  wandering  about  the  corridors  and  chatting  with  the 
other  prisoners.  His  meals  he  took  with  the  warden  and  his 
family.  Lundy  came  often  to  discuss  plans,  bringing  with  him 
Isaac  Knapp,  Garrison's  old  friend,  who  had  arrived  from 
Boston  to  help  Lundy  until  Garrison  was  released.  One  of  the 
daily  occurrences  in  the  jail  was  the  visit  of  the  slave-traders 
to  buy  Negroes,  slave  or  free,  who  had  been  collected  over- 
night. On  one  occasion  Garrison  confronted  a  master  who 
came  to  reclaim  his  slave  and  spent  an  enjoyable  hour  arguing 
the  merits  of  Noah's  curse  as  proof  of  the  divine  sanction  of 
slavery.  He  won  the  debate  but  lost  the  case.  It  was  satisfying 
to  give  his  return  address  as  Baltimore  Jail,  and  though  he  now 
and  again  gave  way  to  his  longings  to  return  to  New  England 
—  "that  paradise  of  our  fallen  world"  —  his  chief  worry  was 
that  he  might  be  released  before  he  had  time  to  publicize  his 


"incarceration." 


First  on  the  promotional  agenda  came  an  account  of  the 
trial  itself,  an  eight-page  pamphlet  entitled  A  Brief  Sketch  of 
the  Trial  of  William  Lloyd  Garrison,  for  an  Alleged  Libel  of 
one  Francis  Todd,  of  Massachusetts,  which  he  dashed  off  in 
the  space  of  a  week  to  call  the  attention  of  the  world  to 
Maryland  justice.  After  expatiating  on  the  unfairness  of  the 
proceedings  and  the  vindictiveness  of  the  prosecutor  at  length 
he  arrived  at  his  central  theme  —  himself .  If  Judge  Brice 
thought  he  had  stifled  a  public  nuisance,  he  was  wrong.  "So 
long  as  a  good  Providence  gives  me  strength  and  intellect,  I 
will  not  cease  to  declare  that  the  existence  of  slavery  is  a  foul 
reproach  to  the  American  name.  ...  I  am  only  in  the 
alphabet  of  my  task;  time  shall  perfect  a  useful  work."  He 
cited  in  his  defense  the  civil  rights  guaranteed  in  the  Consti- 
tution, stalking  horses  he  would  ride  for  thirty-five  years. 
"I  think  it  will  appear,"  he  concluded  in  a  sudden  shift  to 


THE  ROAD   TO  PRISON  113 

understatement,  "that  freedom  of  the  press  has  been  invaded, 
and  that  power  and  not  justice,  has  convicted  me." 

When  he  tired  of  letter-writing  and  moral  strictures,  there 
was  the  Byronic  gesture  of  inscribing  a  sonnet  on  the  walls  of 
his  cell  exalting  the  "immortal  MIND"  and  its  victory  over 
massive  bolts  and  iron  grates.  Meanwhile  Lundy  attended  to 
the  distribution  of  the  pamphlet,  and  by  June  was  able  to  re- 
port that  over  one  hundred  newspapers  and  periodicals  had 
praised  the  dauntless  young  editor  who  dared  to  tell  the  truth 
about  slavery. 

One  day  early  in  June,  Lundy  appeared  at  the  jail  with  the 
money  for  Garrison's  fine  and  a  letter  from  Arthur  Tappan, 
the  New  York  philanthropist.  Tappan  had  read  Garrison's 
sketch  of  the  trial  with  a  deepening  hatred  of  slavery.  He 
paid  the  fine  and  donated  another  hundred  dollars  to  help 
revive  the  Genius,  which  he  said  was  much  needed  "to  hold  up 
to  American  freemen,  in  all  its  naked  deformity,  the  subject 
of  slavery.'m  On  June  5,  forty-nine  days  after  he  first  entered 
the  jail,  Garrison  walked  serenely  out  of  the  yard,  pleased 
with  the  thought  of  returning  to  Boston  but  even  more  satis- 
fied with  his  first  small  offering  on  the  altar  of  freedom. 


6 
Launching  the  Liberator 


GARRISON  HEADED  NORTH  in  June,  1830,  with  a  letter  of 
recommendation  from  Lundy  and  just  enough  pocket 
money  to  get  to  Boston.  He  was  determined  to  organize  an 
anti-slavery  society  as  soon  as  possible,  but  that  took  money 
and  friends.  Thanks  to  advance  publicity  his  name  was  al- 
ready known  in  reform  circles  in  Boston  and  New  York.  Rid- 
ing the  lumbering  coaches  northward  from  Baltimore,  he 
decided  to  capitalize  on  his  stroke  of  good  luck  in  winning  the 
notice  of  the  influential  Arthur  Tappan  by  calling  on  his 
benefactor  in  person. 

Arthur  Tappan,  the  man  who  paid  Garrison's  fine  and 
helped  finance  the  Liberator,  dominated  the  American  reform 
movement  in  1830  as  no  single  individual  after  him.  A  native 
of  Northampton,  Massachusetts,  he  had  been  raised  on  the 
Yankee  precepts  of  holiness  and  thrift.  In  1815  at  the  age  of 
twenty-nine  he  established  a  dry-goods  emporium  at  No.  162 
Pearl  Street  in  New  York  City.  When  a  sudden  influx  of 
Manchester  cottons  flooded  the  market  and  swept  the  new 
firm  into  bankruptcy,  Tappan  turned  his  reputation  for  prob- 
ity to  good  account  by  shifting  to  French  silks  and  quickly 
built  a  thriving  business  on  the  untried  policy  of  low  prices 
and  cash  payments.  With  the  sizable  profits  from  his  venture 
he  began  to  finance  the  American  millennium  —  Bible  and 


LAUNCHING  THE  LIBERATOR 


tract  societies,  the  free  church  movement,  schools  for  Ne- 
groes, a  female  rescue  league,  the  temperance  cause,  and 
Christian  journalism.  In  an  age  of  associations  he  was  the 
prince  of  joiners  —  a  member  of  the  United  Domestic  Mis- 
sionary Society,  the  Young  Men's  Missionary  Society,  an 
honorary  director  of  the  New  York  Evangelical  Missionary 
Society,  a  liberal  supporter  of  the  American  Tract  Society,  to 
which  he  gave  the  initial  sum  of  twenty  thousand  dollars  at  its 
formation,  a  patron  of  the  American  Bible  Society,  in  whose 
name  he  established  one  hundred  scholarships  at  Yale.  An- 
other of  his  projects  was  the  Magdalen  Society  of  New  York, 
an  "Asylum  for  Females  who  Deviated  from  Paths  of  Virtue," 
and  still  another,  the  Journal  of  Commerce,  a  newspaper  run 
on  Christian  principles  with  which  to  fight  the  liquor  traffic, 
prostitution,  circuses,  and  the  theater.  As  a  strict  Sabbatarian  he 
always  made  sure  the  presses  stopped  running  promptly  at 
midnight  on  Saturday.1 

When  Garrison  first  called  on  him  Tappan  was  already 
famous  as  the  patron  saint  of  the  evangelical  crusade,  a  sharp 
critic  of  slavery,  and  the  adviser  of  religious  reformers  all  over 
the  country.  The  machinery  of  New  York's  "Great  Eight" 
was  powered  largely  by  funds  supplied  by  Arthur  Tappan  & 
Company.  From  his  cubicle  in  the  center  of  the  store  he  kept 
the  wheels  of  his  numerous  engines  of  reform  turning  by 
drafting  the  necessary  money  orders  and  consulting  with  the 
host  of  Christian  workers  who  came  to  him  for  advice.  He 
kept  no  records  of  his  donations  and  seldom  mentioned  them 
to  others.  Each  morning  he  opened  his  store  with  a  prayer 
meeting,  and  at  noon  when  his  clerks  put  down  their  bolts 
of  cloth  for  lunch,  he  retired  to  his  desk  to  munch  a  soda 
cracker  and  sip  a  glass  of  water  while  contemplating  his 
weightier  tasks  jba  the  vineyard  of  the  Lord.  Behind  his  grave 


1 1 6  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

exterior,  his  formal  courtesy  and  self-effacing  manner  there 
lurked  the  passion  of  a  true  believer. 

Tappan  had  supported  the  American  Colonization  Society 
for  several  years  until  he  learned  that  rum  and  gunpowder 
were  being  shipped  to  the  settlers  in  Liberia,  whereupon  he 
indignantly  withdrew  his  aid.  These  doubts  soon  led  to  others, 
and  when  he  read  Garrison's  attacks  on  the  society  in  the 
Genius  he  was  converted  to  abolition.  He  told  Daniel 
Webster,  who  sought  his  help  in  founding  a  state  colonization 
society  in  Massachusetts,  that  he  was  no  longer  interested  in 
colonization,  "for  I  see  that  it  originated  in  a  plan  to  get  rid 
of  the  free  negroes  in  order  to  render  slavery  more  secure,  and 
I  will  have  nothing  more  to  do  with  it."2  Once  he  abandoned 
colonization  he  was  determined  to  destroy  it.  It  was  he  who 
urged  Garrison  on  to  a  war  of  extermination  against  the 
society,  writing  to  him  of  his  desire  to  see  more  argument 
in  the  Liberator  "to  show  THE  IMPOSSIBILITY  of  the  Coloniza- 
tion Society's  ever  effecting  the  entire  removal  of  our  colored 
slave  population"®  Yet  with  characteristic  humility  Tappan 
credited  Garrison,  "that  distinguished  and  fearless  philan- 
thropist," with  converting  him  to  immediate  emancipation.4 

Arthur  Tappan  and  his  choleric  brother  Lewis,  an  equally 
devoted  abolitionist,  were  surprised  and  favorably  impressed 
with  the  meekness  of  the  stormy  petrel  from  Baltimore.  "His 
appearance  and  deportment  at  that  time,"  Lewis  recalled, 
"were  not  likely  to  be  forgotten.  His  manly  form,  buoyant 
spirit,  and  countenance  beaming  with  conscious  rectitude, 
attracted  the  attention  of  all  those  who  witnessed  his  intro- 
duction to  Mr.  Tappan."5  Garrison  recounted  his  experiences 
in  jail  and  confided  to  the  brothers  his  hope  of  winning  the 
forthcoming  civil  suit  with  Todd  by  uncovering  new  evidence 
in  Newburyport.  Arthur  promised  his  help,  and  the  next  day 
Garrison  set  out  for  Boston.  Although  he  succumbed  to  the 


LAUNCHING  THE  LIBERATOR  II J 

young  editor's  infectious  zeal,  Tappan  was  by  no  means  con- 
vinced of  Garrison's  fitness  for  publicizing  the  anti-slavery 
cause.  He  had  read  those  blazing  editorials  in  the  Genius 
signed  "W.L.G."  and  did  not  like  their  severity.  Who  knew 
what  this  firebrand  might  do  once  he  was  free  from  Lundy's 
chastening  influence?  He  decided  to  wait  and  see. 

Meanwhile  Garrison,  heartened  by  his  interview  with  Tap- 
pan,  returned  to  Newburyport  to  find  the  town  nearly  as  cold 
on  the  subject  of  slavery  as  Baltimore.  Ephraim  Allen  and  his 
other  friends  urged  him  to  give  up  his  dream  of  reviving  the 
Genius  and  settle  to  a  less  dangerous  occupation.  He  could 
not  possibly  win  the  libel  suit,  they  argued,  so  why  not  admit 
failure  and  come  home?  Their  proposals  fell  on  deaf  ears  — 
in  July,  after  scouring  the  town  in  vain  for  new  evidence,  he 
was  back  in  Baltimore  awaiting  the  trial. 

During  this  flying  trip  to  New  England  he  toyed  with  the 
idea  of  establishing  his  own  newspaper.  Working  for  Lundy 
cramped  his  form  — what  he  wanted  was  a  paper  whose 
editorial  policy  would  be  his  alone.  One  evening  in  August  he 
sat  down  at  his  desk  in  the  boardinghouse  and  put  his  thoughts 
on  paper.  Since  his  primary  object  would  be  the  abolition  of 
slavery,  Washington  seemed  the  obvious  place  to  establish 
the  paper,  for  there  he  could  examine  slavery  from  every 
angle.  "In  its  investigation,  I  shall  use  great  plainness  of 
speech"  he  paused  to  underscore  the  phrase,  "believing  that 
truth  can  never  conduce  to  mischief  and  is  best  discovered  by 
plain  words"* 

So  pleased  was  he  with  his  prospectus  that  he  made  several 
copies,  one  of  which  he  mailed  to  Arthur  Tappan,  who  sent 
back  a  favorable  reply  and  a  check.  Thus  began  a  relation- 
ship which,  despite  Tappan's  growing  misgivings  as  to  Garri- 
son's competence,  helped  support  the  Liberator  and  its  editor 
through  the  first  years  of  a  troubled  career. 


n8  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

In  August,  Garrison  found  that  Todd's  suit  had  been  post- 
poned and  Lundy  had  given  up  hope  of  reviving  the  Genius, 
a  decision  which  concerned  him  less  now  that  he  had  his  own 
paper  to  consider.  While  awaiting  release  from  jail  he  had 
written  three  lengthy  exposes  of  colonization,  and  these  he 
now  decided  to  deliver  on  a  lecture  tour  throughout  the 
Northeast  to  raise  funds  for  the  Liberator.  After  failing  to 
find  a  hall  in  Baltimore  he  said  good-by  to  Lundy  and  started 
for  Philadelphia  and  a  meeting  with  a  second  group  of 
abolitionists  who  would  soon  form  an  outpost  of  "Garrison- 
ism"  in  the  City  of  Brotherly  Love. 

In  1830  the  anti-slavery  center  of  the  Philadelphia  Friends 
was  the  home  of  James  and  Lucretia  Mott  in  South  Fourth 
Street.  Lucretia  was  a  heavy-featured  woman  with  a  gentle 
mouth  and  deep-set  gray  eyes  that  masked  her  enormous 
energy  and  strong  will  At  school  in  Poughkeepsie  she  had 
met  James  Mott,  a  tall,  shy,  excessively  grave  young  man  who 
taught  the  boys'  classes;  and  in  1811,  when  she  was  nineteen 
and  he  twenty-three,  they  married  and  settled  in  Philadelphia, 
where  Mott  entered  a  cotton  commission  house.  Their  first 
experience  with  slavery  came  in  1815,  when  a  South  Carolina 
planter  willed  his  slaves  to  the  Philadelphia  Meeting  to  be 
manumitted,  a  request  which  James  recognized  as  involving 
"considerations  of  no  small  magnitude  to  civil  society."  Three 
years  later  Lucretia  accompanied  the  Quaker  preacher  Sarah 
Zane  on  a  tour  of  Virginia,  where  the  sight  of  slave  coffles 
shuffling  through  Harpers  Ferry  affected  her  much  as  a 
similar  view  had  startled  Benjamin  Lundy.  Prodded  by  her 
conscience,  she  began  to  examine  the  free  produce  movement 
and  soon  concluded  that  it  was  her  duty  to  boycott  all  prod- 
ucts made  by  slave  labor.  Henceforth  the  groceries  in  the 
Mott  household  came  from  Lydia  White's  Requited  Labor 
Grocery  and  Dry-Goods  Store,  although  James  continued  to 


LAUNCHING  THE  LIBERATOR  119 

accept  commissions  for  slave  cotton.  Their  family  ate  only 
free  rice  and  free  sugar  and  wore  clothes  made  from  free 
cotton.  Even  their  candies  were  afree  sweets"  stamped  with 
anti-slavery  couplets: 

If  slavery  comes  by  color,  which  God  gave, 
Fashion  may  change,  and  you  become  the  slave. 

After  struggling  with  his  conscience  for  five  years  James 
abandoned  the  cotton  for  the  wool  business,  a  decision,  Lucre- 
tia  admitted,  that  made  them  "happy  in  the  final  freedom" 
though  "quite  unsettled  with  regard  to  the  future." 

In  1828,  just  as  Lucretia  was  beginning  to  take  a  more 
active  part  in  Quaker  affairs,  Elias  Hicks  split  the  Society  of 
Friends  in  America  into  two  warring  factions.  As  a  Quietist, 
Hicks  objected  to  the  growing  worldliness  of  the  Quakers 
and  their  eagerness  to  cooperate  with  other  churches  in 
promoting  Bible  and  missionary  societies.  Especially  did  he 
disapprove  of  the  increased  institutionalizing  of  Quakerism, 
the  excessive  use  of  Quaker  forms  of  speech  and  behavior,  the 
arbitrary  power  of  the  elders,  and  the  infiltration  of  "evan-  . 
gelical"  beliefs  in  the  Bible  as  the  word  of  God.  Not  all  the 
books  ever  written,  he  told  his  followers,  could  communicate 
God  to  His  children,  who  needed  only  the  guidance  of  the 
Inner  Light.7 

The  Motts  joined  the  Hicksites  because  they  too  disliked 
"oppressive  authority"  and  sought  a  practical  Christianity. 
Lucretia  particularly  deprecated  controversy  over  creedal 
differences  and  held  that  the  "gloomy  dogmas  of  the  schools" 
mattered  less  than  the  heavenly  light  within.  "Men  are  to  be 
judged  by  their  likeness  to  Christ  rather  than  by  their  notions 
of  Christ,"  she  announced  in  one  of  her  sermons  not  long 
before  she  met  Garrison,  She  was  even  more  critical  of 
dictatorial  practices  among  the  elders  that  kept  men  and 


120  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

women  from  thinking  for  themselves.  "The  veneration  of 
believers,"  she  complained,  "has  been  strengthened  by  their 
not  being  allowed  to  think."8  She  worried  lest  the  fear  of  being 
called  an  infidel  keep  too  many  Friends  from  striking  out  on 
their  own  in  reforming  the  world.  "I  care  not  for  charges  of 
verbal  infidelity;  the  infidelity  I  should  dread,  is  to  be  faith- 
less to  the  right,  to  moral  principle,  to  the  divine  impulses  of 
the  soul,  to  a  confidence  in  the  possible  realization  of  the 
millennium  now."  The  millennium  now  —  here  was  the  key 
to  the  Motts'  faith  and  the  goal  of  their  practical  Christianity. 

At  first  the  Motts'  religious  liberalism  shocked  Garrison, 
who  still  prided  himself  on  his  orthodoxy.  Gradually,  how- 
ever, as  their  friendship  deepened,  he  was  won  over  by  their 
tolerance  and  simplicity.  Looking  back  at  their  first  meeting 
from  the  height  of  his  career,  he  admitted  that  their  friendship 
had  been  a  decisive  influence  in  his  life.  "Though  I  was 
strongly  sectarian  in  my  religious  sentiments  (Calvinist)  at 
that  time,  and  hence  uncharitable  in  judgment  touching  theo- 
logical differences  of  opinion  .  .  .  yet  they  manifested  a  most 
kind,  tolerant,  catholic  spirit,  and  allowed  none  of  these 
considerations  to  deter  them  from  giving  me  their  cordial 
approbation  and  cheering  countenance  as  an  advocate  of  the 
slave.  If  my  mind  has  since  become  liberalized  in  any  degree, 
(and  I  think  it  has  burst  every  sectarian  trammel,)  —  if  theo- 
logical dogmas  which  I  once  regarded  as  essential  to  Christian- 
ity, I  now  repudiate  as  absurd  and  pernicious  —  I  am  largely 
indebted  to  them  for  the  change."* 

A  lecture  hall  and  an  audience  willing  to  hear  a  tirade 
against  colonization  proved  hard  to  find  in  Philadelphia  in 
1830.  After  importuning  nearly  every  church  leader  ia  the 
city,  Garrison  was  about  to  leave  for  New  York  in  despair 
when  he  was  finally  given  the  Franklin  Institute  for  three 
successive  nights  beginning  on  August  31.  The  small  audience 


LAUNCHING  THE  LIBERATOR  121 

composed  of  the  Motts  and  their  Quaker  circle  of  Shipleys, 
Pughs,  and  Davises  and  a  handful  of  free  colored  people 
listened  attentively  if  not  with  entire  approval  to  his  im- 
peachment of  the  Colonization  Society.  Even  Lucretia  thought 
his  speech  somewhat  severe,  although  she  could  not  help 
agreeing  that  his  principles  were  correct.  She  and  her  husband 
invited  him  to  their  home,  where  spirited  and  earnest  con- 
versation soon  thawed  the  young  lecturer's  reserve.  They 
talked  of  Lundy  and  his  work,  and  Lucretia  inquired  about  his 
own  plans,  the  state  of  anti-slavery  opinion  in  New  England, 
and  his  hopes  for  the  Liberator.  He  left  Philadelphia  in 
buoyant  spirits,  assured  of  the  interest  of  many  of  the  Quakers 
there  and  anxious  now  to  test  the  doctrine  of  immediate  eman- 
cipation in  Boston. 

Garrison's  doctrine  of  immediate  emancipation  was  an  im- 
port from  England.  In  May,  1830,  while  he  still  sat  in  his 
Baltimore  cell  planning  his  strategy,  across  the  Atlantic,  in 
London,  there  occurred  an  event  that  marked  the  turning 
point  in  the  history  of  anti-slavery.  On  May  15  English 
abolitionists,  members  of  the  Anti-Slavery  Society,  met  in 
Exeter  Hall  for  their  annual  convention.  With  the  diminutive 
William  Wilberforce,  now  at  seventy-one  ill  and  shrunken, 
presiding  on  a  platform  filled  with  elder  statesmen  in  the 
cause,  his  proteg6  Thomas  Fowell  Buxton  rose  ponderously  to 
offer  a  resolution  calling  for  the  abolition  of  slavery  through- 
out the  Empire  "at  the  earliest  possible  period."  Buxton's 
carefully  worded  resolution  was  backed  by  the  authority  of 
the  veterans  Wilberforce,  Zachary  Macaulay,  Thomas  Clark- 
son  and  James  Stephen,  men  who  knew  the  wisdom  of 
moderation  and  had  practiced  it  for  forty  years  in  their  cam- 
paign against  the  West  Indian  planters.  By  1830,  however, 
the  leadership  of  the  abolitionist  party  outside  Parliament  had 
fallen  into  the  hands  of  younger  men  with  less  patience  and 


122  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

more  militancy.  Before  the  May  meeting  they  had  agreed  to 
demand  immediate  emancipation  as  the  sole  remedy  for 
slavery.  To  the  consternation  of  the  Old  Guard  they  amended 
Buxton's  resolution  to  provide  for  immediate  action  and  the 
formation  of  an  Agency  Committee  to  convert  all  England. 

Following  up  their  unexpected  success,  the  advocates  of 
immediate  emancipation  decided  to  go  straight  to  the  country 
without  waiting  for  elections  to  provide  them  with  a  more 
tractable  ministry.  The  success  of  their  agents  was  astound- 
ing: in  twelve  months'  time  the  number  of  anti-slavery 
societies  rocketed  from  two  hundred  to  thirteen  hundred,  and 
petitions  with  hundreds  of  thousands  of  signatures  flooded 
Westminster.  Their  new  techniques  —  the  lecture,  pamphlet, 
handbill  and  poster  — gave  English  abolition  a  momentum 
which  it  never  lost.  In  1832  Parliament  passed  the  long-over- 
due Reform  Bill,  and  in  April  of  the  next  year,  when  three 
hundred  delegates  marched  in  a  body  to  present  an  address  to 
the  Prime  Minister,  the  government  realized  that  thanks  to  the 
Agency  Committee  the  delegates  spoke  the  demands  of  the 
majority  of  Englishmen.  Before  such  strength  it  could  only 
bow  by  passing  the  West  India  Emancipation  Act  on  August 
29,  1833. 

Garrison  was  impressed  with  the  English  indictment  of 
the  West  Indian  planters  and  with  the  emphasis  on  slavery  as  a 
sin.  If  Clarkson  and  Wilberforce,  the  wisest  and  best  men  of 
their  age,  agreed  on  immediate  emancipation  as  the  only  hope, 
then  Americans  had  best  accept  it  as  the  terms  of  divine 
justice. 

In  his  belief  that  the  British  anti-slavery  model  was  ex- 
portable Garrison  was  wrong  on  two  counts.  In  the  first  place, 
the  power  of  Parliament  to  legislate  for  the  colonies  far  sur- 
passed congressional  authority  over  the  states.  The  English 
abolitionists  demanded  that  Parliament  put  a  definite  terminus 


LAUNCHING   THE   LIBERATOR  123 

to  slavery  by  legislative  fiat —  this  was  all  that  "immediate 
emancipation"  really  meant.  Nothing  like  a  general  law 
abolishing  slavery  in  the  South  could  be  expected  from  Con- 
gress. Little  as  he  knew  of  constitutional  law,  Garrison  ad- 
mitted that  Congress  had  no  power  to  regulate  slavery  in  the 
states,  and  this  hard  fact  should  have  prevented  him  from 
making  any  such  easy  assumptions  as  his  British  friends  might 
afford. 

The  second  factor  which  Garrison  overlooked  in  his  haste 
to  copy  British  methods  was  the  obvious  prestige  of  the  anti- 
slavery  movement  in  England.  When  it  was  formed  in  1823 
the  Anti-Slavery  Society  boasted  a  royal  duke  for  its  presi- 
dent, five  peers  and  fourteen  members  of  Parliament  for  vice- 
presidents.  Where  were  the  likes  of  these  to  be  found  in 
America? 

Yet  for  all  his  ignorance  of  the  actual  machinery  of  British 
anti-slavery,  Garrison  rightly  sensed  an  affinity  stemming 
from  the  religious  dedication  common  to  Englishmen  and 
Americans.  The  soul  of  abolition  in  England  was  Evangelical- 
ism, the  religion  of  the  Clapham  Sect  of  "Saints,"  as  they  were 
called  because  of  their  piety  and  high  seriousness,  their  air  of 
self-condemnation  and  their  accent  on  Christian  conduct. 
Evangelicalism  in  England,  unlike  the  more  diffuse  religious 
sentiment  in  America,  was  a  movement,  and  the  Clapham  Sect 
a  distinct  set  of  people  who  shared  the  same  belief  in  the 
power  of  the  regenerated  will  to  shape  society  to  its  own 
image. 

Evangelicalism  was  thus  a  practical  religion,  and  the  Clap- 
hamites,  like  the  Tappans  and  Motts,  were  practical  people. 
The  Saints,  whose  solid  town  houses  ringed  Clapham  Com- 
mon, were  men  of  the  world  who  enjoyed  the  amenities  of  life 
and  knew  the  value  of  money  as  a  power  for  good.  Theirs 
was  no  closed  sainthood  —  they  practiced  no  initiatory  rites, 


124  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

professed  no  rigid  code.  Unable  to  ignore  worldly  opinion, 
they  were  nonetheless  happiest  in  their  own  community  of 
shared  values,  admonishing  one  another  in  plain  language  and 
organizing  projects  for  improving  society,  chief  among  them 
the  abolition  of  slavery.  Theirs  were  feelings  which  Garrison 
could  understand,  a  sense  of  consecration  overriding  all 
doubts,  a  moral  rather  than  mystical  faith  in  divine  purpose, 
the  kind  of  assurance  that  had  sustained  his  mother  through 
the  dark  days  of  her  marriage  and  driven  him  to  take  up  the 
cause  of  the  slave.  In  the  spirit  of  English  Evangelicalism  he 
set  out  to  organize  American  abolitionists  and  form  a  Clapham 
Sect  of  his  own. 

On  October  12,  1831,  the  Boston  Courier  printed  this 
notice: 

WANTED. -For  three  evenings,  a  Hall  or  Meet- 
inghouse (the  latter  would  be  preferred),  in  which 
to  vindicate  the  rights  of  TWO  MILLION  of 
American  citizens  who  are  now  groaning  in  servile 
chains  in  the  boasted  land  of  liberty;  and  also  to 
propose  just,  benevolent,  and  constitutional  mea- 
sures for  their  relief.  As  the  addresses  will  be  gra- 
tuitous and  as  the  cause  is  of  public  benefit,  I  cannot 
consent  to  remunerate  any  society  for  the  use  of  its 
building.  If  this  application  fails,  I  propose  to  ad- 
dress the  citizens  of  Boston  in  the  open,  on  the 
Common. 

WM.  LLOYD  GARRISON 
No.  30  Federal  Street,  Oct.  11,  1830 

It  was  not  a  church  or  religious  society  that  answered  his 
appeal  but  Abner  Kneeland's  group  of  freethinkers  who  of- 
fered their  rooms  in  Julien  Hall.  Accordingly  on  Friday 
evening,  October  15,  he  rose  before  a  "small  but  select 
audience"  of  "the  virtuous  and  high  minded  portion  of  the 


LAUNCHING  THE  LIBERATOR  125 

community"  (already  favorite  Garrisonian  phrases)  to  deliver 
what  was  perhaps  the  most  important  speech  of  his  life.  Ly- 
man  Beecher  was  there,  all  smiles  and  benevolence,  and  so  was 
John  Tappan,  the  hardheaded  brother  of  Arthur  and  Lewis. 
Samuel  Joseph  May,  the  Unitarian  minister  who  had  at- 
tended Lundy's  meeting  at  Collier's  two  years  earlier,  brought 
along  his  cousin  Samuel  Sewall  and  his  brother-in-law  Bron- 
son  Alcott. 

Garrison  began  his  talk  by  thanking  Kneeland's  "infidels" 
for  the  use  of  their  hall  It  was  indicative  of  the  depths  to 
which  the  New  England  conscience  had  descended  that  he 
was  forced  to  accept  the  charity  of  the  very  men  whose 
atheistic  opinions  he  had  censured  in  the  pages  of  the  National 
Philanthropist.  Abolition  properly  belonged  to  the  churches, 
and  if  they  refused  to  act,  they  must  be  purified  by  true 
Christians,  Slaveowners  were  not  and  never  could  be  Chris- 
tians —  "God,  and  the  angels,  and  the  devil,  and  the  universe 
know  that  they  are  without  excuse."  He  charged  coloniza- 
tionists  with  playing  a  cruel  joke  on  an  unsuspecting  public. 
He  himself  had  been  their  dupe  until  he  discovered  their  dia- 
bolical purpose,  but  now  duty  demanded  that  he  denounce 
their  plot.  Were  statistics  needed  to  prove  the  futility  of 
colonization,  or  quotations  to  confirm  the  cunning  of  its 
leaders?  If  so,  here  they  were  in  abundance.  .  .  , 

His  speech  was  a  masterpiece  of  destructive  argument. 
When  he  finished  May  and  Sewall  knew  that  they  had  been 
called  to  a  holy  war.  After  the  lecture  Beecher,  Alcott,  May 
and  Sewall  approached  the  platform,  and  their  reactions  to 
Garrison  were  as  varied  as  their  personalities.  Beecher  seemed 
visibly  disturbed.  Once  before  he  had  been  approached  by 
this  brash  young  man  who  wanted  to  convert  him  to  abolition, 
and  he  had  put  him  off  by  saying  that  he  already  had  too 
many  irons  in  the  fire.  "Then  you  had  better  let  all  your  irons 


126  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

burn  rather  than  neglect  your  duty  to  the  slave,"  Garrison 
had  retorted.  But  this  evening  Beecher  was  upset  by  the  ardor 
with  which  Garrison  argued  his  dangerous  ideas.  "Your  zeal 
is  commendable,"  he  told  him,  "but  you  are  misguided."  If  he 
would  only  forget  his  fanatical  ideas,  Beecher  said,  he  could 
make  him  the  Wilberforce  of  America.  But  Garrison  only 
smiled  his  disagreement  and  turned  to  accept  the  congratula- 
tions of  May  and  Sewall.  For  some  time  now  he  had  doubted 
Beecher's  conviction,  and  his  remarks  that  evening  only  con- 
firmed the  great  man's  lack  of  moral  fiber.  An  idol  had  fallen. 

Far  different  were  the  responses  of  Sewall  and  May.  The 
two  Samuels  shared  more  than  progressive  Unitarian  homes 
and  a  Harvard  education.  They  were  kindred  souls  who  cared 
less  for  polity  and  forms  of  worship  than  for  diffusing  a  non- 
denominational  faith  based  on  the  idea  of  moral  self -improve- 
ment. They  were  ready  for  abolition  just  as  Garrison  was 
ready  for  the  affection  and  good  sense  they  offered.  "That  is 
a  providential  man!"  May  remembered  telling  his  cousin.  He 
told  Garrison  that  though  he  could  hardly  endorse  all  of  his 
views,  he  was  convinced  that  his  was  a  divine  calling.  Alcott 
invited  them  to  his  home,  where  they  sat  till  long  past  mid- 
night listening  to  the  endless  flow  of  Garrison's  arguments. 
"That  night,"  May  admitted,  "my  soul  was  baptised  in  his 
spirit,  and  ever  since  I  have  been  a  disciple  and  fellow-laborer 
of  William  Lloyd  Garrison."10 

Both  May  and  Sewall  remonstrated  with  Garrison  for  his 
violent  and  abusive  language.  They  disliked  his  journalistic 
slang  and  his  habit  of  calling  slaveholders  thieves  and  robbers 
and  accusing  everyone  who  disagreed  with  him  of  willful 
blindness.  May  tried  to  warn  him  of  the  dangers  of  excessive 
heat:  "Oh,  my  friend,"  he  entreated,  "do  try  to  moderate 
your  indignation,  and  keep  more  cool!  why,  you  are  all  on 
fire!"  "Brother  May,"  Garrison  snapped,  "I  have  need  to  be 


LAUNCHING  THE  LIBERATOR  12J 

all  on  fire,  for  I  have  mountains  of  ice  about  me  to  melt."11 
The  cousins  continued  to  hope  that  somehow  they  might 
channel  Garrison's  godly  energy.  In  this  they  were  mistaken. 

His  decision  to  publish  the  Liberator  in  Boston  did  not 
come  immediately,  but  after  audiences  in  New  Haven,  Hart- 
ford and  Newburyport  spurned  his  lectures  on  colonization 
he  decided  that  there  was  a  greater  need  for  a  revolution  in 
public  opinion  in  the  North  —  "and  particularly  in  Neiv 
England"  —  than  in  the  South.  Printing  an  unpopular  news- 
paper in  a  strange  and  hostile  city  was  more  than  even  he 
could  contemplate.  Let  Lundy  attend  to  Washington.  In 
Boston  he  had  a  reputation  that  he  could  turn  to  good  account 
in  getting  credit  and  patronage.  Isaac  Knapp,  who  had  come 
north  with  him,  agreed  to  a  partnership,  and  Sewall  and  May 
promised  to  find  subscribers.  Thus  his  seemingly  bold  resolve 
to  launch  the  paper  "within  the  sight  of  Bunker  Hill  and  the 
birthplace  of  Liberty."12 

He  had  difficulty  naming  his  paper.  Sewall  thought  the 
Liberator  altogether  too  provocative  a  title  and  suggested  the 
Safety  Lamp,  but  Garrison  would  not  agree.  The  actual 
printing  of  the  paper  proved  to  be  the  worst  of  their  troubles, 
since  they  had  neither  a  press  nor  the  means  to  buy  one.  They 
solved  the  problem  temporarily  by  inducing  their  friend 
Stephen  Symonds  Foster,  the  foreman  of  the  Christian  Ex- 
aminer, to  lend  them  his  type  in  exchange  for  a  day's  work 
at  his  press.  The  first  three  numbers  of  the  Liberator  were 
printed  with  type  hurriedly  set  in  the  middle  of  the  night 
and  returned  the  next  day.  For  his  fourth  number  Garrison 
succeeded  in  locating  a  lot  of  secondhand  type  and  a  small 
hand  press. 

On  Saturday  morning,  January  i,  1831,  four  hundred 
copies  of  the  Liberator  carried  Garrison's  declaration  of 
principles  to  the  Boston  public.  His  famous  manifesto,  squeezed 


128  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

into  four  closely  printed  columns,  sat  askew  on  a  front  page 
measuring  exactly  fourteen  by  nine  and  a  quarter  inches.  "I 
am  aware  that  many  object  to  the  severity  of  my  language," 
he  wrote  in  a  pointed  allusion  to  the  strictures  of  May  and 
Sewall,  "but  is  there  not  cause  for  severity?" 

/  will  be  as  harsh  as  truth,  and  as  uncompromising  as  justice.  On 
this  subject,  I  do  not  wish  to  think,  or  speak,  or  write,  with 
moderation.  No!  no!  Tell  a  man  whose  house  is  on  fire  to  give 
a  moderate  alarm;  tell  him  to  moderately  rescue  his  wife  from 
the  hands  of  the  ravisher;  tell  the  mother  to  gradually  extricate 
her  babe  from  the  fire  into  which  it  has  fallen;  —  but  urge  me 
not  to  use  moderation  in  a  cause  like  the  present.  I  am  in  earnest 
—  I  will  not  equivocate  —  I  will  not  excuse  —  I  will  not  retreat  a 
single  inch  —  AND  i  WILL  BE  HEARD. 

The  words  if  not  their  spirit  were  new.  He  had  said  the 
same  thing  before  and  would  repeat  it  countless  times  again. 
But  he  never  succeeded  in  saying  it  as  well. 


7 
Fanning  the  Flames 


THE  OFFICE  OF  the  Liberator  was  located  in  Merchants 
Hall,  first  in  No.  6,  and  then  after  a  few  weeks  in  No.  10 
under  the  eaves.  It  was  a  small  dingy  room  with  tiny,  ink- 
spattered  windows.  In  one  corner  stood  the  press  opposite  the 
battered  composing  desk;  in  the  center  of  the  room  a  long 
roughhewn  mailing  table  littered  with  copy  ran  from  wall  to 
wall  and  next  to  it  Garrison's  bed  for  visitors  to  step  around. 
In  this  room  the  editor  worked  sixteen  hours  every  day  but 
Sunday,  setting  type,  running  off  copy,  compiling  mailing 
lists,  answering  letters  with  painstaking  deliberation,  and  as 
midnight  approached  dashing  off  the  editorials  that  soon  made 
him  notorious.  The  partners  lived  chiefly  on  water  and  stale 
bread  from  a  nearby  bakery.  In  February  they  took  on  a 
colored  apprentice  to  help  with  the  manual  work. 

Visitors  were  welcome  at  No.  10  Merchants  Hall,  and 
they  began  coming  in  increasing  numbers,  some  out  of  sheer 
curiosity,  but  more  with  real  interest  and  the  desire  to  help. 
May  and  Sewall  were  frequent  callers  and  so  was  Arnold 
Buffum,  the  taciturn  Quaker  hatter  from  Rhode  Island.  Here 
too  came  Ellis  Gray  Loring,  the  proper  Bostonian  lawyer; 
David  Lee  Child,  the  liberal  Unitarian  editor  who  remembered 
Garrison  from  the  days  of  the  National  Philanthopist;  and 
Amos  Phelps,  the  energetic  Congregational  minister,  first  an 


130  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

admirer  and  then  a  bitter  enemy  of  the  Liberator.  Oliver 
Johnson,  a  devout  young  evangelical  who  used  the  Liberator 
type  to  print  his  fly-by-night  Christian  Soldier,  often  wan- 
dered in,  drawn  by  Garrison's  apostolic  manner.  To  Johnson 
the  editor  seemed  a  divinely  inspired  leader;  and  in  the  years 
to  come  he  served  his  master  as  chore-boy,  loyal  and  unques- 
tioning for  thirty-five  years,  his  carbon-copy  mind  reproduc- 
ing faithfully  the  Garrisonian  gospel. 

Here  in  No.  10  his  visitors  would  sit  dispersed  about  the 
crowded  and  stuffy  room  listening  to  Garrison,  who  sat  tipped 
back  in  his  editorial  chair,  stroking  a  stray  cat  in  his  lap  and 
pausing  in  the  midst  of  his  endless  monologue  to  wipe  an  ink- 
stained  hand  across  his  balding  head.  He  thrived  on  the  interest 
and  admiration  of  these  new  friends  with  whom  he  talked 
simply  and  candidly.  The  contrast  between  the  incendiary 
editor  of  their  imagination  and  the  mild,  gentle-humored  man 
behind  the  desk  disconcerted  more  than  one  of  his  visitors. 
Instead  of  a  dark-visaged  desperado  —  "something  like  a  pi- 
rate"—they  found  a  scholarly-looking  gentleman.  Nothing 
pleased  the  twenty-six-year-old  editor  more  than  to  be  de- 
scribed as  a  man  of  tender  sensibilities  and  courtly  manners. 

So  demanding  was  the  manual  work  of  printing  the 
Liberator  that  Garrison  hardly  found  time  for  composition. 
"My  worthy  partner  and  I  complete  the  mechanical  part," 
he  explained  to  May  in  apologizing  for  some  editorials  he 
regarded  as  slipshod,  "that  is  to  say,  we  compose  and  dis- 
tribute, on  every  number,  one  hundred  thousand  types,  besides 
performing  the  presswork,  mailing  the  papers  to  subscribers 
&c.,  &C."1  The  editorial  fraternity  may  have  received  the 
Liberator  "with  acclamation"  as  he  joyfully  reported  to  May, 
but  the  public,  which  knew  the  paper  chiefly  through  the 
reputation  of  its  editor,  greeted  it  with  apathy  and  then  with 
downright  hostility. 


FANNING  THE  FLAMES  131 

In  an  age  of  mass  communication  it  is  difficult  to  under- 
stand how  the  Liberator  acquired  the  reputation  it  did.  It 
is  a  mistake  to  imagine  smudged  copies  clandestinely  passed 
from  hand  to  hand  on  the  Charleston  waterfront  and  in  the 
back  streets  of  Richmond,  or  even  widely  read  among  North- 
ern reformers.  At  the  end  of  its  first  year,  the  Liberator  had 
gained  only  fifty  white  subscribers,  and  two  years  later  they 
numbered  less  than  four  hundred.  Garrison  enjoyed  the  dis- 
tinction unique  among  editors  throughout  the  country  of  ad- 
dressing his  message  to  white  philanthropists  and  his  appeals 
for  funds  to  the  free  Negroes.  By  his  own  admission  the 
Liberator  belonged  not  to  the  whites  —  "they  do  not  sustain 
it"  —  but  "emphatically  to  the  people  of  color  —  it  is  their 
organ."2  Its  chief  source  of  revenue  in  its  first  difficult  year 
was  the  pathetic  contributions  from  the  underprivileged 
colored  communities  in  Philadelphia,  New  York  and  Boston. 
Garrison  announced  that  his  paper  had  acted  on  the  free 
Negroes  "like  a  trumpet  call."  By  the  middle  of  February  he 
had  ninety  new  subscriptions  from  Philadelphia  and  over 
thirty  from  New  York.  "This  then,"  he  wrote  to  May,  "is 
my  consolation:  if  I  cannot  do  much,  in  this  quarter,  toward 
abolishing  slavery,  I  may  be  able  to  elevate  our  free  colored 
population  in  the  scale  of  Society."  But  already  rumblings 
in  the  South  indicated  that  the  Liberator  was  destined  for 
a  greater  role  than  this. 

The  secret  of  Garrison's  rapid  ascent  to  notoriety  lay  in  his 
ingenious  use  of  his  list  of  exchanges,  which  numbered  over 
a  hundred  periodicals  at  the  end  of  the  first  year.  These  he 
manipulated  skillfully  to  set  off  chain  reactions  of  public 
opinion.  Southern  editors  received  the  Liberator,  found  it 
highly  offensive,  and  quoted  it  to  show  their  readers  the 
lengths  to  which  diabolical  Yankees  were  prepared  to  go  in 
stripping  the  South  of  her  birthright.  Next,  Northern  editors, 


THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 


neutral  or  openly  hostile  to  abolition  but  sensing  good  copy 
here,  reprinted  the  Southern  editorials  and  added  comments 
of  their  own.  Then  both  the  original  editorial  and  the  com- 
mentary appeared  in  the  Liberator  together  with  more  Garri- 
sonian  invective,  and  the  process  began  all  over  again.  In 
September,  1831,  for  example,  Garrison  proclaimed  his  undy- 
ing friendship  for  Southern  planters  in  these  words:  "I  would 
not,  wittingly,  harm  a  hair  on  their  heads,  nor  injure  them 
in  their  lawful  property.  I  am  not  their  enemy,  but  their 
friend.  It  is  true,  I  abhor  their  oppressive  acts;  nor  will  I 
cease  to  denounce  them  in  terms  of  indignation.  They  will 
surely  be  destroyed  if  they  do  not  repent.  MEN  MUST  BE 
FREE/'3  When  the  volatile  editor  of  the  Tarboro',  South 
Carolina,  Free  Press  read  this,  his  righteous  anger  boiled  over 
and  he  replied  with  the  charge  that  Garrison  was  employing 
"secret  agents"  in  the  Palmetto  State  to  incite  a  slave  rebellion, 
and  suggested,  further,  that  all  such  traitors  apprehended  by 
loyal  sons  of  the  South  should  be  roasted  alive.  Gales  and 
Seaton's  National  Intelligencer  picked  up  the  Tarboro'  edi- 
tor's rabble-rousing  and  printed  it  with  an  editorial  warning 
Garrison  against  "poisoning  the  waters  of  life"  of  the  whole 
American  community.  "We  know  nothing  of  the  man,"  the 
editors  admitted,  "we  desire  not  to  have  him  unlawfully  dealt 
with:  we  can  even  conceive  of  his  motive  being  good  in  his 
own  opinion,"  but  Bostonians  who  love  the  Union  must  inter- 
vene to  "vindicate  the  cause  of  humanity,  as  it  is  outraged  by 
the  publication  to  which  we  refer."  All  of  which  appeared  in 
the  Liberator  a  few  weeks  later  as  proof  of  "Southern  mendac- 
ity and  folly."  "My  contempt  of  it  is  unutterable,"  Garrison 
remarked.  "Nothing  but  my  own  death,  or  want  of  patronage, 
shall  stop  the  Liberator" 

Angry  letters  piled  up  on  the  mailing  table.  He  answered 
as  many  of  them  as  he  could,  patiently  explaining  his  terms 


FANNING  THE  FLAMES 


133 


of  opprobrium  but  refusing  to  alter  his  style.  Publicly  he 
announced,  "My  language  is  exactly  such  as  suits  me;  it  will 
displease  many,  I  know  —  to  displease  them  is  my  intention." 
Further  advice  would  be  considered  intrusive.  "I  do  not  want 
it.  I  want  more  leisure  from  manual  labor,  in  order  to  do 
justice  to  the  cause  —  I  want  a  larger  periodical  that  will 
enable  me  and  my  correspondents  to  appear  before  the  public 
without  crowding  each  other."4  Still  the  letters  filled  with 

fear  and  contempt  kept  coming.  "You  d d  scoundrel.  Hell 

is  gaping  for  you!  the  devil  is  feasting  in  anticipation."  A 
Washington  slaveholder  wrote,  "Your  paper  cannot  much 
longer  be  tolerated.  .  .  .  Shame  on  the  Freemen  of  Boston 
for  permitting  such  a  vehicle  of  outrage  and  rebellion  to  spring 
into  existence  among  them."5  Such  complaints  simply  added 
fuel  to  the  fire  of  Garrison's  incendiary  glee.  "Foes  are  on 
my  right  hand  and  on  my  left,"  ran  one  self-congratulatory 
editorial  "The  tongue  of  detraction  is  busy  against  me.  I  have 
no  communion  with  the  world  —  the  world  none  with  me."6 
Privately  he  confided  to  Henry  Benson,  a  new  agent  for  the 
Liberator  in  Providence  and  his  future  brother-in-law,  that 
he  was  vastly  pleased  that  "the  disturbances  at  the  South  still 
continue.  The  slaveholders  are  evidently  given  over  to  de- 
struction. They  are  determined  to  shut  out  the  light  — to 
hear  none  of  the  appeals  of  justice  and  humanity.  I  shudder 
when  I  contemplate  their  fate."7 

Critics  of  the  Liberator  accused  it  of  inciting  violence.  It 
was  one  thing,  they  declared,  to  protest  pacific  intentions,  but 
what  were  readers  to  make  of  verses  like  the  following  that 
appeared  immediately  beside  the  editor's  disavowal  of  force? 

Though  distant  to  be  the  hour,  yet  come  it  must  — 
Oh!  hasten  it,  in  mercy,  righteous  Heaven! 

When  Afric's  sons,  uprising  from  the  dust, 
Shall  stand  erect  —  their  galling  fetters  riven  .  .  . 


134  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

Wo  if  it  come  with  storm,  and  blood  and  fire, 
When  midnight  darkness  veils  the  earth  and  sky! 

Wo  to  the  innocent  babe  —  the  guilty  sire  — 
Stranger  and  Citizen  alike  shall  die! 

Red-handed  Slaughter  his  revenge  shall  feed, 
And  Havoc  yell  his  ominous  death-cry, 

And  wild  Despair  in  vain  for  mercy  plead  — 

While  Hell  itself  shall  shrink,  and  sicken  at  the  deed!8 

Suddenly,  in  August,  1831,  came  Nat  Turner's  Rebellion  in 
Southampton  County,  Virginia,  as  if  to  give  the  lie  to  Garri- 
son's irenic  declarations.  A  month  later  the  Liberator  was  on 
trial  for  its  life. 

On  August  21,  1831,  a  band  of  slaves  variously  estimated 
between  fifty  and  seventy  in  number  marched  through  South- 
ampton County  killing  and  looting.  Their  leader  was  Nat 
Turner,  a  thirty-one-year-old  fanatic  who  believed  himself 
divinely  commissioned  to  free  his  fellow  slaves  and  who  had 
been  plotting  this  uprising  with  the  help  of  heavenly  voices 
for  some  time.  When  the  sign  came  he  fell  into  a  trance  but 
recovered  in  time  to  begin  butchering  every  white  man  in 
Virginia.  His  army  of  the  Lord  was  easily  routed,  though  not 
before  he  and  his  followers  had  killed  sixty-one  whites.  Tur- 
ner was  hanged  along  with  all  of  his  confederates,  and  an 
aftermath  of  reprisals  began  in  which  over  a  hundred  Negroes 
were  killed,  many  of  them  after  inhuman  torture. 

In  the  midst  of  this  six-month  reign  of  terror  many  South- 
erners were  forcibly  reminded  of  another  black  prophet, 
David  Walker,  whose  Appeal  calling  on  the  slaves  to  revolt 
had  been  published  in  Boston  less  than  two  years  before. 
David  Walker  was  a  free  Negro  of  almost  legendary  fame  and 
one  of  the  first  heroes  of  the  anti-slavery  movement  The  son 
of  a  slave  father  and  a  free  mother  in  Wilmington,  North 
Carolina,  he  had  wandered  all  over  the  South  for  years  before 


FANNING  THE  FLAMES 135 

settling  in  Boston,  where  he  opened  a  secondhand  clothes 
shop.  In  September,  1829,  just  as  Lundy  and  Garrison  were 
organizing  their  joint  enterprise,  Walker  published  his  pam- 
phlet, Appeal  in  Four  Articles  Together  with  a  Preamble  to 
the  Colored  Citizens  of  the  World,  but  in  Particular,  and 
Very  Expressly,  to  those  of  the  United  States  of  America, 
an  extraordinary  piece  of  malevolence  based  on  a  belief  in  the 
superiority  of  the  black  race.  In  the  course  of  his  travels 
Walker  had  acquired  a  rudimentary  education  that  somehow 
accounted  for  his  crude  cyclical  philosophy  of  history  in 
which  God  regularly  intervened  on  the  side  of  downtrodden 
races.  In  his  role  of  prophet  he  foresaw  a  war  of  extermination 
that  would  kill  off  the  whites  "like  rattlesnakes."  "Let  twelve 
good  black  men  get  armed  for  battle  and  they  will  kill  and  put 
to  flight  fifty  whites.  Get  the  blacks  started,  and  if  you  don't 
have  a  gang  of  tigers  and  lions  to  deal  with,  then  I  am  a 
deceiver  of  the  blacks  and  of  the  whites.  If  you  commence 
make  sure  work  of  it:  don't  trifle,  for  they  will  not  trifle  with 
you.  KiH  or  be  killed."9 

Walker's  Appeal  went  through  three  editions  in  six  months, 
each  more  bloodthirsty  than  the  last.  Just  before  his  death 
in  1830  under  mysterious  circumstances,  he  visited  Richmond, 
Virginia,  where  he  circulated  thirty  copies  of  his  pamphlet, 
only  twenty  of  which  were  recovered  when  he  was  arrested. 
Thus,  when  the  black  prophet  Nat  Turner  attacked  his  white 
masters  a  year  later,  it  seemed  to  many  a  Virginian  that  the 
blood  bath  was  the  result  of  Walker's  devilish  Appeal 

Garrison  emphatically  condemned  both  the  Appeal  and 
Turner's  hair-raising  conspiracy.  Yet  his  attitude  toward  vio- 
lence, indeed,  his  allegiance  to  the  peace  cause  remained 
curiously  ambiguous.  Reviewing  the  Appeal  for  readers  of 
the  Genius,  he  had  criticized  it  as  "a  most  injudicious  publi- 
cation" while  admitting  that  its  incitement  to  violence  was 


136  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

" warranted  by  the  creed  of  an  independent  people."  Although 
he  "deprecated  its  circulation,"  he  was  forced  to  admire  its 
"impassioned  and  determined  spirit"  and  "the  bravery  and 
intelligence"  of  its  author.10  When  Southern  editors  clamored 
for  his  punishment  as  an  apologist  for  the  Southampton  revolt, 
Garrison  was  correct  in  replying  that  he  had  never  preached 
anything  to  the  slaves  but  submission.  Yet  his  disavowal  of 
violence  was  something  less  than  unequivocal.  A  month  after 
the  revolt,  he  wrote,  "Ljlojiotjj^ 

bellioniji^  similar 

<5onduct  in  white  men.  I  deny  the  right  of  any  people  to  fight 
foFli^  a  Quaker  in  principles.  Of  all  men 

living,  however,  our  slaves  have  the  best  reason  to  assert  their 
rights  by  violent  measures,  inasmuch  as  they  are  more  op- 
pressed than  others. "^•^hirty  years  later  he  would  soon  dis- 
pose of  the  incident  at  Harpers  Ferry  in  nearly  identical 
terms.  Then  it  appeared  to  many  Southerners,  just  as  it  did 
to  the  Virginia  legislature  in  the  aftermath  of  Nat  Turner's 
revolt,  that  the  editor  of  the  Liberator  was  not  the  man  of 
peace  he  pretended  to  be.  They  saw  only  a  misguided  fanatic 
who  called  slaveowners  "beasts"  and  "criminals"  and  de- 
nounced their  measures  as  "atrocities."  They  proposed  to 
deal  with  him  accordingly. 

In  October  the  city  of  Georgetown  in  the  District  of 
Columbia  passed  an  ordinance  prohibiting  free  Negroes  from 
receiving  the  Liberator.  Then  a  vigilance  committee  in  Colum- 
bia, South  Carolina,  offered  a  reward  for  the  apprehension 
of  any  person  caught  circulating  Garrison's  paper  or  Walker's 
Appeal  Town  meetings  in  Bethesda,  Maryland,  and  Savannah, 
Georgia,  voted  similar  measures.  The  Grand  Jury  of  Raleigh, 
North  Carolina,  found  a  true  bill  against  Garrison  and  Knapp 
for  distributing  their  paper  in  the  county  contrary  to  the 
kws  of  the  state.  In  December,  Governor  James  Hamilton  of 


/ANNING  THE  FLAMES 


South  Carolina  forwarded  to  the  legislature  a  special  mes- 
sage together  with  copies  of  the  Liberator  and  Garrison's 
speech  to  the  Free  People  of  Color  delivered  the  previous 
June  in  Philadelphia.  In  his  message  Hamilton  referred  to  a 
letter  from  the  governor  of  Virginia  which  he  said  "leaves  no 
doubt  that  the  spirit  of  insubordination  in  that  State  was 
excited  by  the  incendiary  newspapers  and  other  publications, 
put  forth  in  the  non»slaveholding  States,  and  freely  circulated 
within  the  limits  of  Virginia."  At  Hamilton's  suggestion,  South 
Carolina's  Senator  Robert  Y.  Hayne  wrote  a  letter  of  protest 
to  his  old  colleague  Harrison  Gray  Otis,  now  mayor  of 
Boston,  asking  what  measures  might  be  taken  to  suppress  the 
Liberator  immediately.  Only  after  making  several  inquiries 
could  Otis  unearth  enough  information  to  allay  his  suspicions. 
"I  am  told,"  he  reported  to  Hayne,  "that  it  is  supported 
chiefly  by  the  free  colored  people;  that  the  number  of  sub- 
scribers in  Baltimore  and  Washington  exceeds  that  of  those  in 
this  city,  and  that  it  is  gratuitously  left  at  one  or  two  of  the 
reading  rooms  in  this  place."  As  far  as  he  could  ascertain,  Otis 
said,  the  editor  was  a  disgruntled  ne'er-do-well  who  had  lived 
for  a  while  in  Baltimore,  "where  his  feelings  have  been 
exasperated  by  some  occurrences  consequent  to  his  publica- 
tions there."  Atrocious  and  detestable  as  his  sentiments  were, 
his  newspaper  had  yet  to  stir  even  a  teapot  tempest  and  was 
not  likely  to  win  converts  among  the  more  respectable  classes 
of  Boston.  It  would  be  hasty  and  imprudent,  Otis  concluded, 
to  take  any  immediate  action.12 

Nevertheless,  he  dispatched  police  officers  to  No.  10  Mer- 
chants Hall  to  establish  the  truth  of  Hayne's  complaint  that 
Garrison  regularly  supplied  him  with  the  Liberator.  The  visit 
proved  to  be  just  what  the  editor  wanted —  a  chance  to 
defend  the  freedom  of  the  press. 


I5g  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

The  Hon.  Robert  Y.  Hayne,  of  Columbia,  S.C.  (through  the 
medium  of  a  letter),  wishes  to  know  of  the  Mayor  of  Boston 
who  sent  a  number  of  the  Liberator  to  him,  a  few  weeks  ago? 
The  Mayor  of  Boston  (through  the  medium  of  a  deputy)  wishes 
to  know  of  Mr.  Garrison  whether  he  sent  the  aforesaid  number 
to  the  aforesaid  individual?  Mr.  Garrison  (through  the  medium 
of  his  paper)  wishes  to  know  of  the  Hon.  Robert  Y.  Haync,  of 
Columbia,  S.C.,  and  the  Mayor  of  Boston,  what  authority  they 
have  to  put  such  questions?13 

He  never  received  an  answer. 

In  November  came  the  strongest  protest  yet  against  the 
Liberator  ~~  &n  open  invitation  to  kidnapping.  The  upper 
house  of  the  Georgia  legislature  passed  a  resolution  providing 
"that  the  sum  of  five  thousand  dollars  be,  and  the  same  is 
hereby  appropriated  to  be  paid  to  any  person  or  persons  who 
shall  arrest,  bring  to  trial  and  prosecute  to  conviction,  under 
the  laws  of  this  State  the  editor  or  publisher  of  a  certain  paper 
called  the  Liberator"1*  Secretly  pleased  with  the  welcome 
publicity,  Garrison  professed  himself  shocked  at  this  "mon- 
strous proposition."  *" 

Where  is  the  liberty  of  the  press  and  of  speech?  where  the  spirit 
of  our  fathers?  where  the  immunities  secured  to  us  by  our  Bill 
of  Rights?  Is  it  treason  to  maintain  the  principles  of  the  Declara- 
tion of  Independence?  Must  we  say  that  slavery  is  a  sacred  and 
benevolent  institution,  or  be  silent?  -  Know  this,  ye  Senatorial 
Patrons  of  kidnappers!  .  .  .  The  Liberator  shall  yet  live  -  live  to 
warn  you  of  your  danger  and  guilt  —  live  to  plead  for  the  perish- 
ing slave  —  live  to  hail  the  day  of  universal  emancipation,15 

To  Henry  Benson  he  wrote  of  the  "perilous  times"  ahead 
for  the  Liberator  and  the  Negroes.  "So  infuriated  are  the 
whites  against  them  since  the  Virginia  and  North  Carolina  in- 
surrection that  the  most  trifling  causes  may  lead  to  a  war  of 
extermination."16 


FANNING  THE  FLAMfeS  139 

These  prophecies  seemed  premature  and  even  ludicrous  in 
1831.  Not  for  another  five  years  would  Southern  statesmen  in 
league  with  Northern  business  interests  mount  a  full-scale 
counterattack  on  abolition.  If  his  bid  for  recognition  as  the 
leader  of  American  anti-slavery  led  Garrison  intentionally  to 
overestimate  the  dangers  to  the  Liberator,  his  analysis  of  the 
issues  nevertheless  proved  correct.  The  events  of  the  next 
decade  would  show  that  the  defenders  of  slavery  were  bent 
on  destroying  abolition  even  if  it  meant  the  annihilation  of 
American  civil  liberties.  By  standing  on  their  constitutional 
rights,  Garrison,  James  G.  Birney,  Theodore  Weld,  Elijah 
Lovejoy  and  the  other  "martyrs"  of  the  anti-slavery  move- 
ment had  largely  won  this  fight  by  1 840.  In  attaching  to  their 
cause  the  rights  of  free  speech,  free  press,  and  free  assembly 
they  won  over  to  their  side  new  recruits  who  were  less  con- 
cerned with  slavery  as  a.  sin  than  with  the  loss  of  basic  free- 
doms, and  who  gradually  came  to  see  in  the  struggle  between 
the  anti-slavery  and  the  slavery  forces  the  choice  between  an 
open  society  with  its  free  intellectual  market  and  a  closed 
community  afraid  of  ideas.  Then,  as  in  its  first  year,  the 
Liberator  upheld  its  editor's  belief  that  "the  triumph  of  truth 
is  as  sure  as  the  light  of  heaven." 

Not  Southern  opposition  alone  but  a  lack  of  patronage 
threatened  the  life  of  the  Liberator  in  its  first  year.  Garrison 
organized  groups  of  free  Negroes  in  Boston  and  lectured  in 
Providence,  New  York  and  Philadelphia  to  raise  money  for 
his  paper;  but  he  knew  that  it  could  not  survive  indefinitely  on 
these  slender  contributions.  Desperately  he  called  for  "a  con- 
centration of  moral  strength"  in  Boston,  an  anti-slavery 
society  to  save  the  Liberator™  His  call  was  soon  heeded. 

On  Sunday  afternoon,  November  13,  1831,  fifteen  men  met 
in  the  offices  of  Samuel  Sewall  in  State  Street  to  hear  Garrison 
expound  on  the  need  for  a  New  England  anti-slavery  society. 


H0  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

He  had  announced  in  advance  that  if  the  apostolic  number  of 
twelve  could  be  found  in  agreement  on  principles,  they  would 
form  a  society  forthwith.  Now  he  spoke  long  and  earnestly 
on  the  merits  of  the  British  anti-slavery  model  and  the  virtues 
of  immediate  emancipation.  When  it  came  time  to  vote,  how- 
ever, only  nine  of  the  group  could  bring  themselves  to  agree 
with  the  editor;  six  others,  including  Sewall,  Loring  and 
Child,  feared  the  repercussions  in  Boston  society  of  such 
radical  doctrine.  The  meeting  ended  without  any  action  on 
Garrison's  project. 

A  month  later  he  tried  again,  this  time  with  only  nine 
disciples  —  Sewall,  Loring,  Child,  Knapp,  Johnson,  and  four 
others.  A  committee  headed  by  Garrison  was  appointed  to 
draft  a  constitution  which  was  to  be  reported  at  the  first 
general  meeting  of  the  new  society  on  January  i,  1832.  The 
Liberator  gave  an  account  of  these  proceedings  and  issued 
an  immediate  call  for  membership.  At  the  meeting  on  the 
first  day  of  the  new  year  Garrison's  constitution  was  adopted 
with  only  a  few  minor  alterations.  New  recruits  appeared 
at  this  meeting,  among  them  Dr.  Gamaliel  Bradford,  soon  to 
be  made  superintendent  of  the  Massachusetts  General  Hos- 
pital, and  the  Reverend  Abijah  Blanchard,  an  anti-Masonic 
editor  of  local  fame.  The  question  of  a  preamble  to  the  consti- 
tution was  postponed  for  a  second  meeting  a  week  later  at 
the  African  Baptist  Church  in  Belknap  Street  in  the  heart  of 
Boston's  "Nigger  Hill."  The  preamble  bore  the  Garrisonian 
stamp  and  provoked  strong  disagreement.  After  prolonged 
debate  in  which  Sewall,  Loring  and  Child  objected  strenu- 
ously to  the  language  of  the  preamble  and  the  principles  of 
the  majority,  the  constitution  was  signed  by  Garrison  and 
eleven  others,  none  of  whom,  it  was  observed,  could  have  put 
a  hundred  dollars  into  the  treasury  without  bankrupting 
themselves.  The  opposition  of  his  three  friends  did  not  pre- 


FANNING  THE  FLAMES  141 

vent  Garrison  from  indulging  in  the  histrionics  he  so  enjoyed. 
"We  have  met  tonight  in  this  obscure  school-house,"  he  told 
the  gathering,  "our  members  are  few  and  our  influence 
limited;  but,  mark  my  prediction,  Faneuil  Hall  shall  ere  long 
echo  with  the  principles  we  have  set  forth.  We  shall  shake 
the  Nation  by  their  mighty  power."18 

The  New  England  Anti-Slavery  Society  elected  as  its  first 
president  Arnold  Buff um,  the  Quaker  hatter  from  Providence. 
Garrison  was  appointed  corresponding  secretary,  an  arrange- 
ment that  satisfied  both  Garrison,  who  wanted  to  be  free  to 
edit  his  paper,  and  the  members,  who  feared  that  his  radical 
ideas  might  prejudice  their  organization  in  the  eyes  of  New 
Englanders.  Buffum  supplied  the  driving  force  of  the  society 
in  its  first  year.  The  son  of  a  farmer  in  Smithfield,  Rhode  Is- 
land, he  was  a  self-educated  man,  an  amateur  inventor  and 
educational  reformer  as  well  as  a  stanch  abolitionist.  Not 
long  before  the  formation  of  the  society  he  had  returned  from 
England,  where  he  discussed  slavery  with  Clarkson  and 
educational  theory  with  leading  Quakers  whose  system  of 
"infant  schools"  he  was  anxious  to  try  out  in  this  country. 
Garrison's  call  found  him  already  active  in  Quaker  circles 
preaching  emancipation  and  Elias  Hicks's  free-produce  ideas. 
Buffum  and  the  faithful  Oliver  Johnson  immediately  took  to 
the  field  as  agents  of  the  society,  traveling  throughout  south- 
ern New  England,  organizing  local  societies,  challenging 
colonizationists,  and  defending  Garrison  and  the  Liberator 
from  charges  of  fanaticism.  Meetings  of  the  society  were  held 
on  the  last  Monday  of  each  month,  and  standing  committees 
were  appointed  to  prepare  petitions,  improve  conditions  in 
Negro  schools,  and  repeal  the  Massachusetts  law  preventing 
intermarriage  of  blacks  and  whites.  The  Liberator  was  de- 
clared the  official  organ  of  the  society,  a  policy  terminated  to 
the  satisfaction  of  all  parties  by  the  publication,  of  a  new 


H2  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

paper,  the  Abolitionist,  at  the  end  of  the  year.  "Our  little 
society  is  gradually  expanding,  and  begins  already  to  make  a 
perceptible  impression  upon  the  public  mind,"  Garrison  wrote 
his  friend  Ebenezer  Dole  in  June,  1832.  "Scarcely  has  the 
good  seed  been  buried  in  the  earth,  and  yet  even  now  it  is 
sending  up  shoots  in  every  direction."19 

The  "good  seed"  of  New  England  abolitionism  was  its 
founder's  belief  that  emancipation  could  be  accomplished  only 
by  the  moral  rebirth  of  every  American  citizen.  As  the  New 
England  Anti-Slavery  Society  grew,  it  sprouted  branches  of 
"Garrisonism"  in  every  direction.  It  was  marked  with  many 
of  the  virtues  and  all  of  the  deficiencies  of  its  leader's  per- 
sonality. In  the  first  place,  Garrison  was  not  an  organizer. 
Much  as  he  admired  the  efficiency  of  the  English  abolitionists, 
he  distrusted  political  maneuvering,  particularly  in  large  or- 
ganizations where  power  might  be  ranged  against  him.  He  was 
not  above  the  tricks  of  manipulating  blocs  of  votes  himself, 
but  he  preferred  open  debate  and  the  rough-and-tumble  ex- 
change of  opinions.  He  believed  that  right  decisions  re- 
sulted from  the  deliberation  of  enlightened  individuals  who 
instinctively  arrived  at  a  simple  solution  and  proceeded  to 
carry  It  out.  He  was  further  convinced  that  emancipation 
would  become  a  reality  only  when  a  majority  of  Americans 
had  been  converted  in  free  and  open  discussion.  Thus  he 
saw  his  society  simply  as  a  forum  for  individuals  to  bear 
their  testimony  against  slavery. 

The  New  England  Society  grew  into  just  this  kind  of 
organization.  Visitors  at  its  annual  meetings  who  were  ac- 
customed to  the  orderly  business  procedure  of  more  central- 
ized societies  were  shocked  by  the  lack  of  system,  the  chaotic 
financial  condition,  and  the  general  absence  of  direction  in 
Garrison's  society.  They  entirely  mistook  the  dispositions  and 
intentions  of  the  delegates  for  whom  the  annual  trek  to  Bos- 


FANNING  THE  FLAMES  143 

ton  was  in  the  nature  of  a  pilgrimage  rather  than  a  business 
meeting,  and  from  which  they  returned  refreshed  with  liter- 
ally hundreds  of  hours  of  talk.  Eloquence  was  a  penny  a 
bushel  at  these  meetings,  it  is  true,  but  eloquence  was  what 
the  members  required.  Along  with  Garrison  they  believed 
that  "moral  suasion"  meant  collecting  one,  two,  or  a  half- 
dozen  people  and  peppering  them  with  arguments  for  im- 
mediate emancipation.  Although  the  society  printed  and  dis- 
tributed pamphlets  and  tracts,  it  was  far  less  effective  than  the 
New  York  and  the  Western  societies  at  this  type  of  propa- 
ganda. Its  forte  was  the  spoken  word  —  it  furnished  the  best 
of  the  anti-slavery  orators  and  evangelists.  Evangelism  thrives 
on  community  spirit,  and  this  the  annual  conclave  of  the 
New  England  abolitionists  provided  in  abundance:  two-hour 
speeches,  endless  motions,  resolutions,  amendments,  and  mara- 
thon personal  testimonies  of  delegates  each  trying  to  outdo 
the  others  in  depicting  the  horrors  of  slavery  and  the  de- 
pravity of  the  planters.  If  it  did  nothing  more,  the  annual 
meeting  of  the  society  furnished  a  release  for  pent-up  emo- 
tions and  sent  members  back  to  their  homes  prepared  to  dis- 
rupt church  services,  badger  their  neighbors,  and  wander  the 
countryside  in  search  of  a  martyrdom  which  was  the  aim  of 
the  society  and  its  founder. 

While  the  new  agents  of  the  society  opened  their  lecture 
tour  early  in  the  spring  of  1832,  Garrison  returned  to  his 
paper  and  the  unfinished  campaign  against  colonization. 
"Every  Monday  evening  an  animated  discussion  is  held  in 
this  city  on  the  principles  and  tendencies  of  the  American 
Colonization  Society,'1  he  reported.  "The  friends  of  this 
pernicious  combination,  having  no  ground  on  which  to  stand, 
are  routed  in  every  debate."20  These  discussion  groups  ceased 
to  satisfy  him  when  he  discovered  that  Boston's  leading  colo- 
nizationists  refused  to  be  drawn  into  debates  with  him,  but 


144  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  IXOYD  GARRISON 

following  the  example  of  their  New  England  agent,  the 
Reverend  Joshua  N.  Danforth,  went  methodically  about  the 
city  infiltrating  the  churches.  Their  obvious  disdain  irked 
Garrison.  "Mr.  Danforth  and  his  coadjutors  cannot  be  in- 
duced to  defend  their  cause.  They  affect  to  belong  to  the 
'good  society  folks,'  and  therefore  cannot  stoop  to  the  canaille. 
Miserable  pride!  It  is  destined  to  have  a  mighty  fall."21 

For  some  time  now  he  had  been  weighing  Tappan's  sugges- 
tion that  he  write  an  anti-colonization  tract.  He  sent  for  the 
files  of  the  African  Repository,  the  organ  of  the  Colonization 
Society,  and  collected  the  reports  of  auxiliary  societies, 
speeches  by  leading  colonizationists  and  dispatches  from  the 
colony  in  Liberia.  The  longer  he  studied  the  society's  meager 
achievements,  the  more  important  it  seemed  to  tear  off  its 
mask  of  respectability.  By  April  he  had  compiled  an  indict- 
ment that  answered,  and  a  month  later  Thoughts  on  African 
Colonization:  or  An  Impartial  Exhibition  of  the  Doctrines, 
Principles  and  Purposes  of  the  American  Colonization  Society 
was  ready  for  the  press.  He  was  doubtful  at  first  of  his  success 
in  discrediting  the  society  and  claimed  only  that  his  pamphlet 
was  "calculated  to  make  a  salutary  impression."22  When  no 
effective  rebuttal  from  the  colonizationists  appeared,  however, 
he  dropped  his  modest  pose  and  announced  that  it  behooved 
every  lover  of  truth  and  friend  of  humanity  to  read  it  care- 
fully. His  boast  contained  a  measure  of  truth,  for  despite  its 
severe  limitations  Thoughts  stands  as  a  major  contribution  to 
the  theory  of  racial  democracy  which,  a  century  after  Appo- 
mattox,  is  still  striving  for  recognition. 

By  the  time  he  left  Baltimore  for  Boston  he  had  concluded 
that  the  greatest  obstacle  to  emancipation  was  the  compla- 
cency of  Northerners  who  would  not  accept  his  principles* 
Gradually  the  evil  of  slavery  became  identified  in  his  mind 
with  the  lack  of  Christian  ideals.  The  real  enemy,  he  now 


FANNING  THE  FLAMES  145 

saw,  was  not  the  slaveholder,  culpable  as  he  was,  but  the 
great  mass  of  indifferent  people  all  over  the  country.  Just  as 
the  twentieth-century  Communist  discovers  his  chief  enemy  in 
the  middle-class  liberal,  so  Garrison  singled  out  as  his  victim 
the  well-meaning  but  morally  uncommitted  citizen  who  made 
up  the  ranks  of  the  American  Colonization  Society.  Not  con- 
tent with  presenting  his  case  for  immediate  emancipation,  he 
was  driven  to  destroy  the  society  and  incriminate  its  members. 

The  significance  of  his  vendetta  against  colonization  lay  in 
the  new  perspectives  it  furnished  him.  It  was  easy  enough  to 
label  his  enemies  "hard-hearted  incorrigible  sinners"  and  "piti- 
ful, pale-faced  usurpers,"  but  what  was  his  alternative  to  a 
program  he  denounced  as  inadequate  in  design  and  injurious 
in  its  operation?  He  needed  to  define  his  plan  for  freeing  the 
slave  with  a  precision  he  had  not  yet  shown.  Since  the  found- 
ing of  the  American  Colonization  Society  in  1817  its  most 
effective  critic  had  been  the  Northern  free  Negro.  Garrison's 
first  contact  with  this  body  of  opinion  came  in  Baltimore, 
where  he  met  Lundy's  friend  William  Watkins,  whose  trench- 
ant criticism  of  colonization  principles  he  published  in  the 
Genius.  Why,  asked  Watkins,  should  Negroes  be  forced  to 
leave  their  home  for  certain  death  in  Africa?  Why  leave  a 
land  of  gospel  light  for  one  enshrouded  in  pagan  gloom? 
These  questions  set  Garrison  thinking, 

At  this  time,  too,  Garrison  first  read  Walker's  Appeal,  one 
section  of  which  was  devoted  to  "Our  Wretchedness  in  Con- 
sequence of  the  Colonizing  Plan.'7  Walker  leveled  his  sights 
on  the  false  friends  of  the  Negro  who,  he  said,  did  not  care 
"a  pinch  of  snuff"  either  for  Africa  or  the  slave.  To  them  he 
said  simply,  "We  must  and  shall  be  free,  I  say,  in  spite  of 
you."  Reading  Walker's  impassioned  pages  or  listening  to  the 
heated  discussion  of  Watkins  and  Lundy's  other  colored 
friends,  Garrison  wondered  how  the  colonizationists  had 


146  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

duped  Americans  into  believing  the  Negro  unfit  for  civilized 
life.  That  there  were  thousands  of  them  huddled  into  slums 
in  Northern  cities  and  living  in  crime  and  squalor  he  would 
not  deny.  Yet  once  given  education  and  proper  Christian 
training  might  not  the  whole  race  rise  to  the  level  of  Watkins 
and  Walker  or  even  —  secretly  he  believed  it  possible  —  to  that 
of  white  Americans?  Then  he  realized  that  the  answer  hinged 
on  the  fate  of  the  American  Colonization  Society. 

In  its  first  crucial  year  the  Liberator  pressed  the  attack  on 
colonization  to  the  limits  of  sensationalism.  An  editorial  for 
April  23,  1831,  announced  the  editor's  decision  to  unmask 
the  society  as  a  group  of  Negro-haters  "who  have  entered 
into  this  CONSPIRACY  AGAINST  HUMAN  RIGHTS,"  Hard  on  the 
heels  of  this  accusation  came  others:  the  Colonization  Society 
was  founded  on  "Persecution,"  "Falsehood,"  "Cowardice," 
and  "Infidelity";  it  conspired  to  strengthen  slavery;  it  libeled 
the  Negro  race;  it  betrayed  the  American  heritage  of  free- 
dom.23 

In  June,  1831,  he  was  invited  to  address  the  Free  People  of 
Color  in  Philadelphia,  where  he  was  the  guest  of  Robert  Pur- 
vis, the  son-in-law  of  Negro  leader  James  Forten.  Talking 
with  these  colored  families  and  visiting  in  their  homes  made 
him  realize  how  much  emancipation  meant  to  them.  They 
flattered  him,  sought  his  advice,  and  openly  courted  his  ap- 
proval. He,  in  his  turn,  lectured  them  endlessly,  advising  them 
to  make  Jesus  their  exemplar  and  refuge,  and  counseling  them 
against  hatred  and  violence.  He  clearly  enjoyed  playing  their 
father  confessor,  and  there  was  a  good  deal  of  spurious  hu- 
mility in  his  posture.  He  could  hardly  meet  these  Negroes  on 
their  own  terms  without  betraying  a  habitual  sense  of  superi- 
ority, but  he  could  learn  to  respect  if  not  to  understand  them. 
Even  then  he  was  driven  to  ritualize  his  initiation  by  a  formal 
act  of  contrition.  "I  never  rise  to  address  a  colored  audience," 


FANNING  THE  FLAMES  147 

he  told  them,  "without  feeling  ashamed  of  my  own  color; 
ashamed  at  being  identified  with  a  race  of  men  who  have  done 
you  so  much  injustice.  .  .  .  To  make  atonement,  in  part, 
for  this  conduct,  I  have  solemnly  dedicated  my  health,  and 
strength,  and  life,  to  your  service."24  Though  he  spoke  of 
love,  forgiveness  and  compassion,  what  emerged  most  clearly 
from  this  confession  was  his  own  overriding  sense  of  guilt. 

Back  in  Boston  he  prepared  to  dispose  of  colonization  once 
and  for  all.  He  had  to  prevent  the  society  from  poisoning  the 
minds  of  the  people,  for  until  Americans  were  willing  to  ad- 
mit the  Negro  to  an  equality  of  rights  there  could  be  no 
Christian  society.  "They  do  not  wish  to  admit  them  to  an 
equality,"  he  confessed  to  Henry  Benson,  "they  tell  us  we 
must  always  be  hostile  to  the  free  people  of  color,  while  they 
remain  in  this  country.  If  this  be  so,  then  we  had  better  burn 
our  bibles,  and  our  Declaration  of  Independence  and  candidly 
acknowledge  ourselves  to  be  incorrigible  tyrants  and  hea- 
thens."25 The  only  other  course  open  to  Christians  lay  in  a 
holy  war  of  extermination  of  prejudice,  and  this  course  he 
now  determined  to  take. 

Thoughts  on  African  Colonization  is  a  bulky  pamphlet  of 
two  hundred  and  forty  pages  which  opens  with  the  familiar 
dispassionate  announcement  of  the  author's  "unbiassed  mind" 
and  "lively  sense  of  accountability  to  God."26  So  far,  his  re- 
ward for  disinterested  benevolence  had  consisted  solely  of 
persecution  and  abuse.  "I  have  been  thrust  into  prison,  and 
amerced  in  a  heavy  fine!  Epithets,  huge  and  unseemly,  have 
been  showered  upon  me  without  mercy.  .  .  .  Assassinations 
have  been  threatened  me  in  a  multitude  of  anonymous  letters. 
Private  and  public  rewards  to  a  very  large  amount  .  .  .  have 
been  offered  to  any  person  who  shall  abduct  or  destroy  me."27 
Of  his  supposed  recusancy  to  the  cause  of  colonization  he  says 


148  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  IXOYP  GARRISON 

only  that  "whereas  I  was  blind,  now  I  see,"  and  seeing,  has 
decided  to  tell  all 

The  main  section  of  the  pamphlet  containing  the  mass  of 
damaging  quotations  against  colonization  is  divided  into  ten 
headings,  each  of  them  compiled  about  a  core  of  quotations 
designed  to  establish  the  truth  of  the  allegation.  To  support 
his  first  claim  that  the  society  is  pledged  not  to  interfere  with 
slavery  he  cites  the  second  article  of  its  constitution  defining 
its  purpose  as  "exclusively"  colonization.  To  this  he  adds 
Henry  Clay's  periodical  disclaimers  of  any  intention  to  meddle 
with  slave  property.  Then  follow  quotations  from  John  Ran- 
dolph, G.  W.  Custis,  Francis  Scott  Key,  quotations  from  a 
dozen  annual  reports  of  the  society,  quotations  from  coloni- 
zation tracts,  from  auxiliary  societies,  memorials,  and  ad- 
dresses —  quotations  ad  nauseam.  "Out  of  thine  own  mouth 
will  I  condemn  thee,"  warns  the  frontispiece,  and  so  it  proves. 

In  his  resolve  to  ruin  the  Colonization  Society  whatever 
the  cost,  Garrison  did  not  scruple  to  use  dishonest  methods. 
His  promise  to  discuss  the  society  as  a  whole  counted  for 
nothing.  Individual  opinions  of  its  members  he  treated  as  offi- 
cial declarations  of  policy;  he  held  the  society  responsible  for 
aU  the  editorial  views  of  the  African  Repository.  But  his  most 
serious  editorial  transgression  was  the  sin  of  omission,  his  un- 
fair practice  of  quoting  out  of  context.  From  a  speech  of 
Dr.  E.  B.  Caldwell,  one  of  the  founders  of  the  society,  he  took 
the  following  excerpt: 

The  more  you  improve  the  condition  of  these  people,  the  more 
you  cultivate  their  minds,  the  more  miserable  you  make  them  in 
their  present  state.  You  give  them  a  higher  relish  for  those  privi- 
leges which  they  can  never  attain,  and  turn  what  you  intend  for 
a  blessing  into  a  curse.  No,  if  they  must  remain  in  their  present 
situation,  keep  them  in  the  lowest  state  of  ignorance  and  degrada* 


FANNING  THE  FLAMES  149 

tion.  The  nearer  you  bring  them  to  the  condition  of  brutes,  the 
better  chance  do  you  give  them  of  possessing  their  apathy.28 

Actually  Caldwell  had  gone  on  to  add:  "Surely  Americans 
ought  to  be  the  last  people  on  earth  to  advocate  such  slavish 
doctrines  —  to  cry  peace  and  contentment  to  those  who  are 
deprived  of  the  blessings  of  civil  liberty."  This  qualification 
Garrison  found  it  convenient  to  ornit.  There  were  other 
examples  of  quotations  similarly  doctored  with  italics,  sen- 
tences truncated  and  meanings  twisted.  He  distorted  ideas 
because  at  bottom  he  did  not  really  respect  them.  Concerned 
with  the  immediate  impact  of  opinion  and  unable  to  follow 
other  people's  thoughts  to  their  logical  ends,  he  felt  no  mis- 
givings about  appropriating  only  what  he  needed  at  the  mo- 
ment, whether  it  was  a  paraphrase  of  a  Biblical  quotation  or  a 
fragment  of  reasoned  argument.  When  colonizationists  com- 
plained of  this  willful  misrepresentation,  he  retorted  that 
however  much  he  altered  the  structure  he  had  not  changed  the 
meaning  —  the  devil's  altar-rail  needed  not  his  polishing.  Such 
specious  arguments  aside,  it  was  true  most  of  his  quotations 
required  no  accommodation.  Even  without  these  fraudulent 
tactics  the  Colonization  Society  stood  condemned. 

The  text  of  Thoughts  shows  every  sign  of  having  been 
hastily  compiled  from  earlier  editorials  and  speeches  in  the 
attempt  to  lend  fervor  to  the  exposition.  Yet  seldom  does  the 
forced  eloquence  rise  above  the  commonplace.  It  is  rather  in 
its  appeal  to  the  spirit  of  religious  orthodoxy  that  the  tract 
attains  its  object  in  disclosing  the  revolutionary  power  latent 
in  the  evangelical  formula.  The  argument  rests  on  Garrison's 
assumption  that  sin,  far  from  being  solitary,  springs  from 
communal  roots.  Slavery  is  the  sum  of  interlocking  and  mu- 
tually sustaining  sinful  acts  and  can  be  wiped  out  only  by 
collective  repentance.  Just  as  the  lone  sinner  is  cured  by  re- 


J5°  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

generation,  so  a  whole  people  can  purify  themselves  under  the 
convenant  by  refusing  to  sin  any  longer.  Their  reward  is 
God's  approval  evidenced  in  a  flourishing  and  holy  com- 
munity. "I  appeal  to  those  who  have  been  redeemed  from  the 
bondage  of  sin  by  the  precious  blood  of  Christ,  and  with 
whom  I  hope  to  unite  in  a  better  world  in  ascribing  glory, 
and  honor,  and  praise  to  the  Great  Deliverer  for  ever.  If  I 
can  succeed  in  gaining  their  attention,  I  feel  sure  of  con- 
vincing their  understandings  and  securing  their  support."29 
Regeneration,  then  abolition  —  the  evangelical  prescription  for 
reform. 

In  closing  their  Bibles  and  ignoring  God's  command,  he 
continued,  Americans  had  forgotten  that  God  made  of  one 
blood  all  nations  to  dwell  on  the  face  of  the  earth.  For  Garri- 
son the  words  "one  blood"  expressed  a  biological  fact  as  well 
as  a  spiritual  truth.  He  believed  that  in  a  single  creation  God 
had  made  all  races  of  men,  who,  however  physically  distinct, 
partook  in  common  of  the  atoning  blood  of  Christ.  Christi- 
anity enjoined  racial  equality  because  God  had  placed  his 
mark  of  infinite  worth  on  all  men.  Some  might  argue  that 
He  had  placed  a  special  mark  on  the  black  man.  "True:  and 
he  has  also  put  a  mark  upon  every  man,  woman  and  child,  in 
the  world;  so  that  every  one  differs  in  appearance  from  an- 
other." To  suppose  therefore  that  races  ought  to  be  divided 
into  self-enclosed  communities  each  with  its  own  exclusive  cul- 
ture was  to  misread  the  divine  plan. 

The  difference  between  a  black  and  a  white  skin  is  not  greater 
than  that  between  a  white  and  a  black  one.  In  either  case,  the 
mark  is  distinctive;  and  the  blacks  may  as  reasonably  expel  the 
whites  as  the  whites  the  blacks.  To  make  such  a  separation  we 
have  no  authority;  to  attempt  it,  would  only  end  in  disappoint- 
ment; and,  if  it  were  carried  into  effect,  those  who  are  clamour- 
ous for  the  measure  would  be  among  the  first  cast  out.80 


FANNING  THE  FLAMES 151 

The  American  Colonization  Society,  he  went  on,  solemnly 
assured  the  people  that  Nature  had  played  them  falsely. 
Colored  persons  were  born  by  mistake  in  this  country;  they 
should  have  been  born  in  Africa.  "There  occur  at  least  sixty 
thousand  mistakes  annually;  while  the  Society  has  corrected 
only  about  two  thousand  in  fourteen  years!  But  —  courage! 
men  engaged  in  a  laudable  enterprise  should  never  despair!"51 
What  about  the  thousands  of  mulattoes,  quadroons,  octo- 
roons? Was  it  really  possible  to  define  the  precise  shade  of 
color  which  qualified  a  man  for  civilized  life?  If  not,  then 
Americans  had  better  raise  an  army  of  whites  to  drive  out 
everyone  who  could  not  produce  vouchers  that  pure  "English 
blood"  flowed  in  their  veins.  He  refused  to  grant  that  color 
was  anything  more  than  an  incidental  physiological  difference 
like  bone  structure  having  no  connection  with  a  man's  mental 
and  moral  proclivities.  To  be  a  thoroughgoing  colonizationist 
one  would  have  to  be  consistent.  "I  must  be  able  to  give  a 
reason  why  all  our  tall  citizens  should  not  conspire  to  remove 
their  more  diminutive  brethren,  and  all  the  corpulent  to  re- 
move the  lean  and  the  lank,  and  all  the  strong  remove  the 
weak.  ...  I  cannot  perceive  that  I  am  more  excusable  in 
desiring  the  banishment  of  my  neighbor  because  his  skin  is 
darker  than  mine,  than  I  should  be  in  desiring  his  banishment 
because  he  is  smaller  or  feebler  than  myself." 

Nor  were  there  any  "impassable"  natural  barriers  prevent- 
ing racial  intermarriage.  Colonizationists  argued  that  Nature 
forbade  the  lion  to  beget  the  lamb  or  the  leopard  the  bear,  but 
the  "amalgamation"  they  so  dreaded  increased  daily.  The 
Southern  planters  had  clearly  shown  that  amalgamation  was 
not  only  possible  but  eminently  productive!  Talk  about  the 
"barriers  of  Nature"  when  die  land  swarmed  with  living  refu- 
tations of  the  statement  Miscegenation  laws  constituted  a 
denial  of  our  common  humanity  and  a  reproach  to  God.  No 


£52  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

man  should  be  refused  a  share  in  the  plenitude  of  creation 
which  "presents  to  the  eye  every  conceivable  shape,  and 
aspect,  and  color,  in  the  gorgeous  and  multifarious  productions 
of  Nature."  Like  everything  else  in  the  universe  the  free  mix- 
ture of  races  formed  part  of  the  divine  plan. 

Perhaps  the  gravest  charge  brought  against  the  abolitionists 
is  that  of  attempting  to  "white-wash"  the  Negro  by  making 
him  like  themselves.  It  is  true  that  in  his  devotion  to  humanity 
Garrison  forgot  the  Negroes  as  individual  human  beings,  and 
that  he  wanted  above  all  else  to  bring  them  to  a  state  of  grace. 
He  believed  that  the  nearer  they  approached  the  whites  in 
their  habits  the  better  they  were.  He  was  continually  search- 
ing for  the  signs  of  gentility  and  refinement  which  would 
prove  them  the  equal  of  the  whites,  and  when  he  thought  he 
discerned  such  traits  he  rejoiced.  "I  wish  you  had  been  with 
me  in  Philadelphia,"  he  wrote  to  Ebenezer  Dole  of  his  visit 
there  in  1832,  "to  see  what  I  saw,  to  hear  what  I  heard,  and 
to  experience  what  I  felt,  in  associating  with  many  colored 
families.  There  are  colored  men  and  women,  in  that  city,  who 
have  few  superiors  in  refinement,  in  moral  worth,  and  in  all 
that  makes  the  human  character  worthy  of  admiration  and 
praise."32  It  is  also  true  that  his  relationship  with  Negroes  was 
always  tempered  by  a  sense  of  estrangement.  For  them  he 
symbolized  the  humanitarianism  of  the  white  people,  righteous 
but  cold  and  impersonal,  while  in  his  eyes  they  appeared  first 
and  last  as  noble  examples  of  an  oppressed  race.  He  admired 
but  never  really  knew  them  or  understood  what  it  meant  to  be 
a  Negro.  They  always  seemed  to  him  a  social  problem  rather 
than  simply  people. 

Still,  if  he  thought  only  of  "elevating"  the  race  with  the 
prayers  and  promises  of  a  white  man's  religion,  such  was  his 
prescription  for  all  mankind.  And  if  he  continued  to  empha- 
size unduly  the  ability  of  the  Negro  to  become  like  the  white 


FANNING  THE  FLAMES Z53 

it  was  because  few  of  his  contemporaries  were  prepared  to 
believe  this  was  possible.  The  time  when  science  would  ex- 
plode the  myth  of  inherited  racial  characteristics  lay  far  in 
the  future.  In  1832  Americans  accepted  the  "depravity"  and 
"corruption"  of  the  colored  people  as  established  fact.  What 
better  way  to  prove  equality,  Garrison  asked  himself,  than 
by  making  the  Negro  white?  For  the  failure  of  perception 
and  the  habit  of  evading  all  genuine  experience  of  the  race 
his  critics  were  right  in  condemning  him.  He  never  tried  to 
understand  people,  black  or  white,  but  preferred  to  use  them 
as  counters  in  the  grim  business  of  reform.  But  at  a  time  when 
it  was  generally  agreed  that  the  Negro  race  was  inherently 
inferior  Garrison's  detachment  —  his  ability  to  isolate  people 
from  the  environmental  forces  that  produce  them  — was  an 
asset  rather  than  a  liability. 

From  the  premise  of  Christian  universalism  Thoughts  pro- 
ceeded to  a  distinction  between  gradual  and  immediate  eman- 
cipation. What  was  gradual  emancipation  —  a  gradual  ab- 
staining from  cruelty  and  oppression?  "Do  colonizationists 
mean,  that  slave-dealers  shall  purchase  or  sell  a  few  victims 
less  this  year  than  they  did  last?  that  slave-owners  shall  liberate 
one,  two,  or  three  out  of  every  hundred  slaves  during  the 
same  period?  that  slave-drivers  shall  apply  the  lash  to  the 
scarred  and  bleeding  backs  of  their  victims  somewhat  less 
frequently?"  Immediate  e?nancipation,  on  the  other  hand, 
meant  "simply  declaring  that  slave-owners  are  bound  to  ful- 
fill —  now,  without  any  reluctance  or  delay  —  the  golden  rule, 
namely,  to  do  as  they  would  be  done  by."38  It  did  not  mean 
that  all  slaves  should  immediately  be  given  the  right  to  vote  or 
hold  office  or  even  be  free  from  "the  benevolent  restraints  of 
guardianship."  Immediate  emancipationists  demanded  only 
that  the  Negro  be  given  the  right  to  work  as  a  free  laborer 
along  with  education  and  religious  instruction.  Freedom 


154  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

would  increase  the  value  of  Negro  labor  and  augment  the 
wealth  of  the  South.  The  new  freedmen  would  make  good 
citizens:  "they  will  not  be  idle,  but  avariciously  industrious; 
they  will  not  rush  through  the  country  firing  dwellings  and 
murdering  inhabitants;  for  freedom  is  all  they  ask,"34 

The  publication  of  Thoughts  plunged  the  Liberator  into 
temporary  financial  trouble,  and  soon  Garrison  was  com- 
plaining that  he  must  let  the  paper  "die"  or  make  public  his 
embarrassment;35  Happily,  the  tract  began  to  sell  Arthur 
Tappan  ordered  one  hundred  copies  for  distribution  among 
his  friends.  Copies  found  their  way  into  the  libraries  at  Lane 
Seminary  and  Western  Reserve.  Theodore  Weld,  a  convert  to 
abolition  and  a  rising  figure  in  Western  anti-slavery  circles, 
discussed  Garrison's  arguments  with  his  followers.  Within 
nine  months  it  had  sold  2750  copies  — by  anti-slavery  stand- 
ards an  unprecedented  number.  Garrison  was  naturally 
pleased  with  his  success  and  announced  as  early  as  June  that 
"conversions  from  colonization  are  rapidly  multiplying  in 
every  quarter."36  The  Colonization  Society,  after  expressing 
the  charitable  hope  that  Garrison  would  modify  his  views, 
chose  to  ignore  the  work.  Agents  of  the  society  made  a  few 
feeble  attempts  to  defend  colonization  in  open  debate  with  the 
Garrisonians,  only  to  be  routed.  Skirmishes  between  the  two 
camps  continued  for  a  decade,  but  for  all  practical  purposes 
the  appearance  of  Thoughts  ended  the  usefulness  of  the  so- 
ciety. "The  roads  of  Colonization  and  Abolition  lead  in  dif- 
ferent directions,  but  they  do  not  cross  each  other,"  Henry 
Clay  once  said.  In  1832,  standing  at  the  crossroads  of  reform, 
Northern  opponents  of  slavery  read  Garrison's  signpost  and 
chose  the  road  that  led  to  emancipation. 


8 
Triumph  and  Doubt  in  1833 


IN  APRIL,  1833,  Garrison  sailed  for  England  on  his  first 
anti-slavery  mission.  In  New  York  on  the  eve  of  his  de- 
parture he  discovered  a  "murderous  design77  to  kidnap  and 
deliver  him  to  the  authorities  in  Georgia,  and  he  rushed  off  to 
Philadelphia  to  board  the  Liverpool  packet  before  the  con- 
spirators realized  their  mistake.  But  he  was  too  late  —  the  ship 
had  sailed  and  there  was  nothing  to  do  but  return  secretly  to 
New  York  and  baffle  the  vigilance  of  his  enemies  by  hiding 
aboard  the  pilot  boat  until  it  was  far  down  the  harbor.  "My 
friends  are  full  of  apprehension  and  disquietude,"  he  wrote 
to  one  of  his  female  admirers,  "but  I  cannot  know  fear.  I  feel 
that  it  is  impossible  for  danger  to  awe  me.  I  tremble  at  noth- 
ing but  my  own  delinquencies,  as  one  who  is  bound  to  be 
perfect  even  as  my  heavenly  Father  is  perfect."1 

As  usual  he  had  refurbished  the  facts  to  suit  his  purpose. 
His  pursuers  were  not  young  bloods  from  Georgia  intent  on 
carrying  him  off,  but  the  sheriff  of  Windham  County,  Con- 
necticut, who  had  tried  to  serve  him  with  five  separate  writs 
for  his  part  in  helping  Prudence  Crandall,  the  Quaker  school- 
mistress, establish  a  school  for  colored  girls.  The  unhappy 
sheriff  had  caught  sight  of  Garrison  a  few  minutes  after  he 
left  by  stage  for  New  York  and  had  chased  the  coach  for 
a  few  miles  before  giving  up  in  disgust.  Garrison  was  sure 


i5<5  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

that  the  escapade  was  part  of  a  plot  to  thwart  his  mission.  "No 
doubt  the  Colonization  party  will  resort  to  some  base  measures 
to  prevent,  if  possible,  my  departure  for  England,"2  he  warned 
Knapp  and  instructed  him  to  print  the  story  in  the  Liberator. 
The  more  he  considered  the  incident,  the  larger  it  loomed; 
and  by  the  time  he  reached  New  York  it  had  acquired  the 
dimensions  of  a  gigantic  conspiracy.  He  enjoyed  intrigue,  and 
besides,  cloak-and-dagger  tales  made  good  copy. 

He  was  going  to  England  as  an  agent  of  the  New  England 
Society  to  raise  funds  for  a  manual  labor  school  for  Negroes. 
The  manual  labor  idea  was  an  important  part  of  the  New 
England  Society's  program.  The  scheme  originated  in  Switzer- 
land and  had  been  tried  in  several  European  countries  before 
the  Reverend  George  W.  Gale  brought  it  to  the  Oneida 
Institute  in  western  New  York.  The  plan  provided  that  each 
student  pay  part  of  his  expenses  by  working  on  the  school 
farm,  thereby  reducing  the  costs  of  education  and  ensuring 
the  health  of  the  student,  which,  so  the  theory  went,  might  be 
endangered  by  long  hours  of  study.  Such  institutions,  it  was 
hoped,  would  provide  rural  havens  of  simplicity  where  young 
men  could  escape  the  wiles  and  snares  of  sophisticated  society. 
Most  of  the  theological  schools  in  die  country  had  already 
adopted  a  modified  version  of  voluntary  manual  labor,  but  at 
Oneida  work  was  compulsory.  The  Board  of  Managers  of  the 
New  England  Society  were  so  impressed  with  the  favorable 
reports  from  Oneida  that  they  decided  to  combine  the  idea 
with  Negro  education  in  New  England.  In  March,  1833,  they 
appointed  Garrison  an  agent  to  "proceed  to  England  as  soon 
as  the  necessary  arrangements  can  be  made,  for  the  purpose  of 
procuring  funds  to  aid  in  the  establishment  of  the  proposed 
MANUAL  LABOR  SCHOOL  FOR  COLORED  YOUTH/'8  Since  the  treas- 
ury lacked  funds  for  the  trip,  Garrison  spent  six  weeks  making 
a  series  of  farewell  appearances  in  Boston,  Providence,  New 


TRIUMPH  AND  DOUBT  IN    1833  157 

York,  and  Philadelphia  dunning  his  colored  friends.  By  April 
he  had  nearly  six  hundred  dollars,  enough  for  traveling  ex- 
penses, and  on  the  first  of  May  he  embarked  for  Liverpool. 

His  own  motives  for  undertaking  the  trip  he  kept  to  him- 
self. He  knew  that  Elliot  Cresson,  the  agent  of  the  Coloniza- 
tion Society,  was  conducting  a  fund-raising  tour  of  the  British 
Isles.  Using  his  reputation  as  the  fearless  editor  of  the  Liber- 
ator and  author  of  Thoughts  on  African  Colonization,  he 
meant  to  unmask  Cresson  and  his  organization  and  establish 
himself  as  the  undisputed  leader  of  American  anti-slavery. 
He  also  knew  that  Charles  Stuart,  a  member  of  Tappan's 
New  York  circle  and  an  opponent  of  the  Colonization  So- 
ciety, was  already  in  England  denouncing  Cresson  wherever 
he  went.  Stuart  was  a  retired  British  army  captain  who  once 
had  been  court-martialed  for  refusing  to  fire  on  a  group  of 
East  Indian  natives.  A  bachelor  with  an  effusive  manner  and 
eccentric  habits,  he  was  also  a  spirited  polemicist  who  would 
have  no  difficulty  in  disposing  of  Cresson,  Finally,  Garrison 
knew  that  the  English  abolitionists,  already  within  sight  of 
their  goal,  needed  no  enlightenment  on  the  American  Coloni- 
zation Society.  Only  a  year  ago  Thomas  Buxton  had  written 
to  tell  him  that  it  was  wholly  unnecessary  for  him  "to  set  me, 
or  any  of  the  true  Anti-Slavery  Party  in  this  Country  on  our 
guard  against  the  delusive  professions  of  the  Colonization 
Society  or  its  Agent."4  Still,  if  his  newly  acquired  prestige 
was  to  be  of  any  help  to  him,  he  must  make  the  pilgrimage  to 
London  and  personally  receive  the  blessing  of  the  English 
anti-slavery  veterans.  Thus  from  the  beginning  his  mission 
took  on  the  aspects  of  a  publicity  campaign  to  which  the 
intrigues  surrounding  his  departure  were  a  fitting  prologue. 

After  a  short  passage  of  three  weeks,  most  of  which  he 
spent  miserably  seasick  in  his  cabin,  he  stepped  down  the 
gangplank  at  Liverpool  wearied  in  "flesh  and  spirit."  He  did 


158  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

not  see  the  nearby  slums  that  so  appalled  Melville,  but  re- 
ported that  the  city  seemed  "bustling,  prosperous,  and  great" 
in  its  "commercial  aspect."  He  rested  a  few  days  at  Dingle 
Bank,  James  Cropper's  country  house,  before  continuing  to 
London.  He  already  spoke  of  Cropper  as  his  "excellent 
friend,"  though  he  had  yet  to  meet  him,  his  host  having  pro- 
ceeded to  London  before  his  arrival.  Cropper  more  than  ful- 
filled his  description  when  Garrison  joined  him  in  London, 
for  he  more  than  anyone  else  was  responsible  for  his  Ameri- 
can friend's  remarkable  success.  Cropper  was  one  of  the  group 
of  wealthy  Quaker  merchants  who  supplied  the  cause  of  West 
Indian  emancipation  with  new  energy.  Prudent  and  grave, 
given  to  weighty  pronouncements  but  a  shrewd  judge  of  men, 
he  knew  everyone  of  consequence  in  the  anti-slavery  move- 
ment and  himself  was  much  admired  by  his  colleagues. 

On  his  arrival  in  London  on  May  27,  Garrison  discovered 
that  almost  every  important  English  abolitionist  had  gathered 
in  the  offices  of  the  society  and  the  nearby  Guildhall  Coffee 
House  to  watch  the  passage  of  the  West  India  Emancipation 
Bill  through  Parliament.  Cropper  took  him  to  breakfast  at  the 
Coffee  House  and,  much  to  Garrison's  delight,  introduced 
him  as  the  distinguished  agent  of  the  New  England  Anti- 
Slavery  Society.  Realizing  how  timely  his  arrival  was,  he  pri- 
vately gave  thanks  to  Providence  for  ordering  events  for  him 
"in  a  manner  so  highly  auspicious."  Now  came  a  round  of 
visits  to  anti-slavery  notables,  beginning  with  a  breakfast  with 
Buxton.  Presented  to  the  great  Parliamentary  leader,  he  was 
not  a  little  disconcerted  when,  instead  of  stepping  forward  to 
shake  his  hand,  Buxton  sat  staring  at  him  doubtfully.  Finally, 
after  a  full  minute  of  embarrassing  silence,  he  asked,  "Have  I 
the  pleasure  of  addressing  Mr.  Garrison,  of  Boston,  in  the 
United  States?"  Upon  Garrison's  assurance  that  such  indeed 
was  the  case,  Buxton  again  paused  and  then  said  in  evident  be- 


TRIUMPH  AND  DOUBT  IN   1833  159 

wilderment,  "Why,  my  dear  sir,  I  thought  you  were  a  black 
man!  And  I  have  consequently  invited  this  company  of  ladies 
and  gentlemen  to  be  present  to  welcome  Mr.  Garrison,  the 
black  advocate  of  emancipation  from  the  United  States  of 
America."  Whatever  his  private  feelings,  Garrison  promptly 
replied  that  Buxton's  was  the  only  compliment  he  cared  to 
remember.5 

At  Bath  he  spent  five  hours  with  the  failing  Wilberforce 
blissfully  unaware  of  the  old  man's  feeble  condition.  "I  en- 
deavored to  communicate  as  briefly  and  clearly  as  possible,  all 
the  prominent  facts  relating  to  our  great  controversy,"  he  re- 
ported to  the  Board  of  Managers.  "I  impressed  upon  his  mind, 
tenderly  and  solemnly,  the  importance  of  his  bearing  public 
testimony  against  the  American  Colonization  Society."6  Wil- 
berforce denied  that  he  had  ever  considered  colonization  the 
sole  remedy  for  American  slavery,  but  agreed  with  his  dog- 
matic young  visitor  that  he  should  officially  withdraw  his 
support. 

Thomas  Clarkson,  doddering  and  now  almost  totally  blind, 
proved  less  tractable  than  his  old  friend  and  was  not  to  be  won 
over  by  the  importunings  of  his  uninvited  guest.  He  was  a 
good  friend  of  Cresson's  and  knew  many  of  the  leading  colo- 
nizationists  in  the  United  States  well.  Although  he  too  be- 
lieved that  the  society  was  only  a  first  step  toward  emancipa- 
tion, he  was  determined  not  to  become  involved  in  what 
seemed  to  him  a  foolish  controversy.  After  four  hours  of  fruit- 
less argument  in  which  Garrison  "spared  no  pains  to  correct 
the  erroneous  views  which  he  had  formed,"  he  left,  lamenting 
that  Clarkson  should  still  feel  it  to  be  his  duty  to  occupy 
neutral  ground.7 

On  his  return  to  London,  Garrison  found  awaiting  him  a 
protest  signed  by  Wilberforce  and  ten  other  English  veterans 
denouncing  the  claims  of  die  Colonization  Society  as  "wholly 


160  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

groundless. "  The  protest,  probably  the  work  of  Cropper  and 
Charles  Stuart,  came  as  a  welcome  surprise.  Lest  his  Ameri- 
can critics  accuse  him  of  intentional  malice,  he  hastened  to 
disclaim  all  responsibility  for  the  declaration.  "In  getting  up 
this  protest,"  he  explained  to  the  New  England  Society  on 
his  return,  "I  had  no  agency  whatever.  It  was  altogether  un- 
expected by  me."8  The  eleven  signatures  nevertheless  repre- 
sented a  major  achievement  —  the  primary  purpose  of  the 
mission  had  been  fulfilled.  Now  he  had  only  to  show  himself 
to  the  British  public  as  the  lion  of  American  abolitionism  by 
devouring  the  Colonization  Society's  sacrificial  lamb,  Elliot 
Cresson. 

Upon  reaching  London  in  May  he  had  written  a  letter  to 
Cresson  accusing  him  of  bilking  the  English  public  and  chal- 
lenging him  to  a  public  debate.  Cresson  naturally  refused  to 
participate  in  such  unseemly  proceedings,  whereupon  Garri- 
son sent  an  open  letter  to  The  Times  of  London  charging 
him  with  cowardice.  In  July,  Charles  Stuart,  who  had  been 
dogging  Cresson's  footsteps  ever  since  his  arrival,  reported 
that  a  meeting  was  being  planned  to  organize  a  British 
Colonization  Society.  Would  Garrison  attend  and  testify 
against  Cresson?  Garrison  would  do  more  —  he  would  con- 
tact the  Duke  of  Sussex,  Cresson's  patron,  and  try  to  dissuade 
him  from  supporting  the  project.  Garrison  failed  to  convince 
the  duke,  but  Stuart  succeeded  in  collecting  a  group  of 
abolitionists  including  an  ardent  young  agitator  named 
George  Thompson  to  attend  the  colonization  meeting  and, 
if  possible,  disrupt  it.  The  Hanover  Square  meeting  of  the 
English  colonizationists  barely  escaped  the  fate  which  Gar- 
rison had  prepared  for  it.  Of  the  one  hundred  and  twenty 
present  nearly  one  half  were  abolitionists  rounded  up  by 
Cropper,  Stuart,  and  Thompson.  The  Duke  of  Sussex,  who 


TRIUMPH  AND  DOUBT  IN    1833  l6l 

presided,  was  bombarded  with  hostile  questions.  Finally,  over 
the  fierce  protests  of  the  abolitionists  the  majority  voted  to 
organize  an  English  colonization  society.  Now  there  was 
only  one  recourse  left  to  the  anti-slavery  party  — •  a  meeting 
of  their  own  "as  an  offset,"  as  Garrison  put  it,  at  which  he 
should  be  given  free  voice. 

The  Exeter  Hall  meeting  on  Saturday  morning,  July  13, 
proved  a  resounding  success.  Garrison  spoke  for  over  two 
hours.  In  his  speech  he  adhered  closely  to  his  plan  for  posing 
as  the  appointed  agent  of  American  anti-slavery  reformers.  "I 
cherish  as  strong  a  love  for  the  land  of  my  nativity  as  any 
man  living.  .  .  ."  he  told  his  audience.  "But  I  have  some 
solemn  accusations  to  bring  against  her."  America  was  guilty 
of  "insulting  the  majesty  of  Heaven"  by  giving  an  open,  de- 
liberate and  base  denial  to  her  boasted  Declaration.  She  had 
legalized  licentiousness,  fraud,  cruelty  and  murder.  In  the 
course  of  his  diatribe  he  referred  to  the  Constitution,  a  sub- 
ject to  which  he  returned  a  few  days  later  in  an  article  for 
the  London  "Patriot  in  an  attempt  to  show  that  he  had  broken 
all  national  ties. 

I  know  [he  wrote]  that  there  is  much  declamation  about  the 
sacredness  of  the  compact  which  was  formed  between  the  free 
and  the  slave  States  in  the  adoption  of  the  National  Constitution. 
A  sacred  compact,  forsooth!  I  pronounce  it  the  most  bloody  and 
Heaven-daring  arrangement  ever  made  by  men  for  the  continu- 
ance and  protection  of  the  most  atrocious  villainy  ever  exhibited 
on  earth.  Yes,  I  recognize  the  compact,  but  with  feelings  of  shame 
and  indignation;  and  it  will  be  held  in  everlasting  infamy  by  the 
friends  of  humanity  and  justice  throughout  the  world.  Who  or 
what  were  the  framers  of  the  American  government  that  they 
should  dare  confirm  and  authorize  such  high-handed  villainy  — 
such  a  flagrant  robbery  of  the  inalienable  rights  of  man  —  such  a 
glaring  violation  of  all  the  precepts  and  injunctions  of  the  gospel 


162  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GAJMUSON 

—  such  a  savage  war  upon  a  sixth  part  of  the  whole  population? 
It  was  not  valid  then  —  it  is  not  valid  now.9 

Garrison's  second  object,  to  win  acceptance  as  the  official 
representative  of  American  abolitionists,  required  a  bit  more 
ingenuity.  In  fact,  he  had  approached  Arthur  Tappan  and 
his  friends  for  funds  only  to  be  refused.  Tappan  could  not 
see  that  the  British  needed  indoctrination  in  their  own  prin- 
ciples, and  thought  that  any  appeal  for  funds  was  premature. 
He  even  suspected  that  the  real  purpose  of  Garrison's  mission 
was  to  inflate  his  own  reputation,  a  shrewd  guess  as  the 
Exeter  Hall  speech  showed.  "I  have  crossed  the  Atlantic  on 
an  errand  of  mercy,"  Garrison  announced,  "to  plead  for 
perishing  millions  and  to  discharge,  in  behalf  of  the  abolition- 
ists of  the  United  States,  a  high  moral  obligation  which  is 
due  the  British  public."  He  would  not  bore  them  with  a 
"lachrymal  display"  of  his  losses  and  crosses  in  the  cause,  but 
it  was  well  known  in  America  that  he  had  stood,  "almost 
single-handed  for  a  series  of  years,  against  and  in  the  midst 
of  a  nation  of  oppressors."  If  anyone  could  rightfully  claim 
the  sympathy  of  the  English  reformers,  it  was  a  man  who 
had  endured  the  wrath  of  his  country  for  righteousness'  sake. 

Near  the  end  of  his  marathon  performance  he  was  inter- 
rupted by  the  arrival  of  the  great  Irish  orator  Daniel  O'Con- 
nell,  who  had  come  to  pay  his  respects.  When  he  had 
finished,  O'Connell  strode  to  the  platform  and  "threw  off  a 
speech  as  he  threw  off  his  coat,"  denouncing  the  Colonization 
Society  and  praising  the  wisdom  of  the  New  England  Anti- 
Slavery  Society  in  sending  such  an  able  advocate  to  English 
shores.  Not  since  he  printed  the  first  number  of  the  Liberator 
had  Garrison  been  so  well  pleased  with  a  day's  work. 

One  final  appearance  and  he  could  return  home.  On  July 
2«^,  three  days  after  the  second  reading  of  the  West  India 


TRIUMPH  AND  DOUBT  IN    1833  163 

Emancipation  Bill,  Wilberforce  died.  In  the  endless  funeral 
train  to  Westminster  Abbey,  behind  princes  of  the  blood, 
prelates  of  the  Church,  members  of  Parliament  walked  the 
grave  bespectacled  American  with  eyes  piously  lowered  as  if 
in  a  solemn  recessional  after  the  initiatory  rites.  When  it  came 
time  to  embark,  he  found  he  lacked  the  money  for  the  return 
passage.  Rather  than  approach  Cropper  and  his  friends,  he 
borrowed  two  hundred  dollars  from  Nathaniel  Paul,  a  Negro 
minister  and  protege  of  Tappan  who  was  also  collecting  funds 
for  a  manual  labor  school.  He  promised  to  repay  the  loan  to 
Tappan  just  as  soon  as  he  was  able,  but  secretly  he  wondered 
how  soon  that  would  be.  On  August  18  he  boarded  the 
packet  Hannibal  and  arrived  in  New  York  five  weeks  later. 

Sitting  in  his  cabin  and  reflecting  on  the  summer's  events, 
he  had  reason  to  be  satisfied.  Financially  the  trip  had  proved 
a  failure,  but  he  brought  back  with  him  the  valuable  protest, 
testimonials  from  Cropper  and  Thompson,  and  even  a  per- 
sonal tribute  from  Zachary  Macaulay  thanking  him  for  his 
"eminent  services  .  .  .  rendered  to  the  cause  of  humanity."10 
He  had  directed  the  rout  of  the  colonization  forces,  paid  a 
last  tribute  to  the  great  Wilberforce,  and  made  innumerable 
new  friends.  Most  important,  he  returned  with  the  recogni- 
tion and  good  will  he  needed  to  build  an  American  anti- 
slavery  movement. 

He  stepped  off  the  boat  in  New  York  to  find  the  stage  set 
for  his  entrance.  While  he  was  basking  in  the  limelight  of 
English  flattery,  the  American  reformers  under  the  direction 
of  Arthur  Tappan  were  writing  the  script  and  casting  the 
principals  for  the  anti-slavery  drama  which  played  the  Amer- 
ican stage  for  the  next  thirty  years.  American  abolitionism 
from  its  inception  was  the  product  of  two  distinct  groups, 
one  in  New  England  under  Garrison,  the  other  in  New  York 


164  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

and  the  Ohio  Valley  under  transplanted  New  Englanders 
like  Theodore  Weld,  Beriah  Green,  Elizur  Wright  and  Henry 
Stanton.  As  a  patron  of  American  reform  with  connections 
in  both  the  East  and  the  West,  Arthur  Tappan  was  a  pivotal 
figure  in  the  formation  of  a  national  anti-slavery  society.  His 
New  York  Committee  served  as  a  clearinghouse  for  abolition- 
ist projects,  distributed  information,  and  functioned  as  a  di- 
rectory for  reformers  everywhere.  It  was  Tappan's  great 
achievement  in  the  year  1833  to  join  together  the  Eastern 
and  Western  branches  of  the  anti-slavery  movement  into  a 
single  national  organ,  an  achievement  which  no  amount  of 
Garrisonian  disparagement  could  ever  undo. 

Tappan's  interest  in  the  West  dated  from  the  autumn  of 
1829  and  the  appearance  in  New  York  City  of  the  great 
revivalist  Charles  Grandison  Finney.  If  Lyman  Beecher  served 
as  the  archpriest  of  the  eastern  half  of  the  Benevolent  Em- 
pire, the  New  West  belonged  to  Finney.  Just  as  Beecher's 
version  of  "immediate  repentance"  provided  the  theological 
underpinnings  for  Garrisonism,  so  Finney's  Arminian  doc- 
trine of  the  "new  heart,"  at  once  simpler  and  bolder  than 
Beecher's,  supplied  the  rationale  for  Western  anti-slavery.11 

Tappan's  lieutenant  and  the  leader  of  the  Western  anti- 
slavery  movement  was  a  convert  of  Finney's,  Theodore  Weld, 
an  unkempt,  sad-eyed  evangelical  whose  quiet  intensity  and 
natural  shrewdness  brought  him  quickly  to  the  front  of  the 
movement.  Modest  and  circumspect  as  he  seemed,  Weld  was 
a  natural  leader  of  men,  an  astute  judge  of  character,  and  an 
efficient  organizer  —  all  the  things  that  Garrison  was  not.  He 
had  been  lecturing  on  the  temperance  circuit  when  the  Tap- 
pans,  struck  by  his  promotional  talents  and  forceful  presence, 
decided  to  have  the  sole  use  of  so  brilliant  a  lecturer  and  gave 
him  the  job  of  raising  funds  and  selecting  the  site  for  a  great 


TRIUMPH  AND  DOUBT  IN    1833  165 

theological  seminary  in  the  West  based  on  the  manual  labor 
plan.  In  the  fall  of  1831,  while  Garrison  was  busy  sending 
copies  of  the  Liberator  into  the  Ohio  Valley,  Weld  set  out 
on  a  tour  of  the  West  and  South,  addressing  legislatures, 
colleges,  churches  and  philanthropists  on  the  subject  of  man- 
ual labor.  His  campaign  took  him  as  far  south  as  Huntsville, 
Alabama,  where  he  met  James  G.  Birney,  an'  earnest  young 
country  lawyer  whose  austere  Presbyterian  conscience  had 
convinced  him  of  the  wrongfulness  of  slavery.  Just  as  Garri- 
son had  first  turned  hopefully  to  the  American  Colonization 
Society  for  an  answer  to  the  problem,  so  Birney  and  Weld 
studied  the  society's  program  and  weighed  the  justice  of  re- 
turning the  Negro  to  Africa.  Though  Weld  could  not  doubt 
the  sinfulness  of  slavery,  as  yet  he  knew  little  about  it,  and 
Birney's  searching  questions  and  Scriptural  arguments  set  him 
thinking.  His  effect  on  the  Alabama  lawyer  was  no  less  pro- 
nounced: when  Weld  started  north  after  nearly  a  month  in 
Huntsville,  Birney  abandoned  a  flourishing  legal  practice  to 
become  an  agent  of  the  American  Colonization  Society. 

From  now  on  Weld,  like  Garrison  before  him,  occupied 
himself  almost  exclusively  with  the  study  of  American  slav- 
ery. The  turning  point  in  his  career  came  with  his  visit  to  the 
wilderness  campus  of  Western  Reserve  College  in  Hudson, 
Ohio,  late  in  November,  1832.  Here  he  met  Elizur  Wright 
and  Beriah  Green,  two  faculty  members  who  had  been  con- 
verted to  abolition  by  Garrison's  Thoughts.  "You  will  re- 
collect," Wright  admitted  to  Garrison  soon  after  his  talks 
with  Weld,  "that  in  a  letter  some  time  ago,  I  expressed  some 
doubts  with  regard  to  the  correctness  of  your  views  in  respect 
to  the  African  colony.  Your  'Thoughts  on  African  Coloniza- 
tion' have  dispelled  these  doubts.  I  find  that  I  was  misin- 
formed, as  doubtless  thousands  are,  in  regard  to  your  opin- 


i66  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GABRISQN 

ions."12  Using  Garrison's  moral  arguments,  Wright  and  Green 
converted  Weld  to  immediate  emancipation  and  convinced 
him  that  "the  very  first  business  is  to  shove  off  the  lubberly 
Colonization  Society  which  is,  at  the  very  best,  a  superim- 
posed dead  weight."13  Such  was  Garrison's  message  as  the 
faculty  at  Western  Reserve  interpreted  it.  "The  question  now 
is,  what  shall  be  done?"  Wright  wrote  to  Weld  in  Decem- 
ber. aWe  would  put  one  hundred  copies  of  the  Liberator 
into  as  many  towns  on  the  Reserve,  if  we  knew  where  to 
find  the  means."  They  planned  to  form  a  local  anti-slavery 
society*  he  told  Weld,  but  what  was  needed  was  a  national 
organization  along  the  lines  of  the  other  benevolent  societies. 
"What  would  benevolent  men  in  N.  York  think  of  a  con- 
vention on  this  subject,  about  the  time  of  the  anniversaries 
next  spring?"14 

As  he  traveled  east  to  New  York  City  in  January,  1833, 
Weld  was  pondering  Wright's  suggestion  when  he  received  a 
letter  from  Garrison  inviting  him  to  Boston  to  address  the 
New  England  Society  on  the  subject  of  manual  labor.  Weld 
refused,  pleading  prior  engagements  in  New  York  City.  "Be- 
sides, Sir,"  he  went  on,  "I  am  ignorant  of  the  history,  specific 
plans,  modes  of  operation,  present  position  and  ultimate  aims 
of  the  N.E.  Anti-Slavery  Society.  Residing  in  the  interior  of 
the  state  of  New  York,  I  have  been  quite  out  of  range  of  its 
publications,  have  never  seen  any  of  them  or  indeed  any 
expose  of  its  operations,  and  all  the  definite  knowledge  of  its 
plans  and  principles  which  I  possess  has  been  thro  the  perver- 
sions and  distortions  of  its  avowed  opposers."  Yet  he  could 
see  by  the  "expressive  name"  of  Garrison's  organization  that 
its  sentiments  agreed  with  his  —  that 

Nothing  but  crime  can  forfeit  liberty.  That  no  condition  of 
birth,  no  shade  of  color,  no  mere  misfortune  of  circumstance, 


TRIUMPH  AND  DOUBT  IN    1833  167 

can  annul  that  birth-right  charter,  which  God  has  bequeathed 
to  every  being  upon  whom  he  has  stamped  his  own  image, 
by  making  him  a  free  moral  agent,  and  that  he  who  robs  his 
fellow-man  of  this  tramples  upon  right,  subverts  justice,  out- 
rages humanity,  unsettles  the  foundations  of  human  safety  and 
sacrilegiously  assumes  the  prerogatives  of  God;  and  further,  that 
he  who  retains  by  force,  and  refuses  to  surrender  that  which  was 
originally  obtained  by  violence  or  fraud,  is  joint  partner  in  the 
original  sin,  becomes  its  apologist  and  makes  it  the  business  of 
every  moment  to  perpetuate  it  afresh,  however  he  may  lull  his 
conscience  by  the  vain  pleas  of  expediency  or  necessity.15 

Reading  Weld's  letter,  the  very  phrases  of  which  were 
familiar,  Garrison  recognized  his  own  arguments  from  the 
pen  of  a  man  who  had  never  even  heard  of  him.  The  Liber- 
ator had  done  its  work  well  on  the  Western  Reserve. 

Garrison  walked  down  the  gangplank  in  New  York  to 
find  the  scene  prepared  for  his  arrival.  In  the  spring  of  1833, 
just  as  he  had  sailed  for  England,  Arthur  Tappan  set  his  anti- 
slavery  plans  in  motion.  Elizur  Wright  came  to  New  York 
to  serve  as  secretary  to  the  New  York  Committee,  and  Tap- 
pan  dispatched  him  to  Boston  to  scout  out  Garrison's  society. 
In  Boston,  Wright  met  his  old  Yale  classmate  Amos  Phelps, 
who  gave  him  news  of  Garrison's  successes  in  England. 
Wright  found  that  New  York  lagged  behind  Boston  and 
told  the  Tappan  brothers  so.  As  summer  drew  on  and  the 
New  Yorkers  waited  for  reports  on  the  West  India  Bill,  they 
accelerated  their  program  of  agitation  by  distributing  copies 
of  Garrison's  Thoughts  and  launching  the  Emancipator. 
Then,  hearing  the  news  of  the  victory  in  Parliament,  they 
decided  to  call  a  meeting  of  "The  Friends  of  Immediate 
Abolition  in  the  United  States"  on  October  2  in  Clinton 
Hall*  On  the  day  of  the  meeting  posters  were  tacked  up  all 
over  the  city: 


l68  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

NOTICE 
TO  ALL  PERSONS  FROM  THE  SOUTH 

All  persons  interested  in  the  subject  of  a  meeting 
called  by  J.  Leavitt,  W.  Green,  Jr.,  W.  Goodell, 
J.  Rankin,  Lewis  Tappan,  at  Clinton  Hall,  this 
evening  at  7  o'clock,  are  requested  to  attend  at 
the  same  hour  and  place. 

MANY  SOUTHERNERS 

N.B.  All  Citizens  who  may  feel  disposed  to  mani- 
fest the  true  feeling  of  the  State  on  this  subject, 
are  requested  to  attend. 

That  same  evening  a  mob  of  some  fifteen  hundred  New 
Yorkers  stood  in  front  of  Clinton  Hall  yelling  for  the  blood 
of  Arthur  Tappan  and  William  Lloyd  Garrison.  In  their 
midst  stood  Garrison  himself,  who  had  come  to  help  organ- 
ize the  New  York  Anti-Slavery  Society  and  was  now  wan- 
dering among  them  unrecognized. 

Although  Garrison  was  in  no  way  responsible  for  the 
Clinton  Hall  demonstration,  a  rumor  had  circulated  that  he 
was  back  in  the  city  and  would  attend  the  meeting.  His 
Exeter  Hall  address  had  jarred  the  nerves  of  patriotic  New 
York  journalists,  one  of  whom  demanded  that  the  "many- 
headed  Hydra"  be  "nipped  in  the  bud."  "He  comes  in  the 
flush  of  triumph,"  complained  another,  "and  with  the  flatteries 
still  on  his  ear  of  those  who  wish  not  well  to  your  country."10 
Promptly  at  seven  o'clock  on  Wednesday,  October  2,  he  ar- 
rived at  Clinton  Hall  only  to  find  it  locked  and  surrounded 
by  an  angry  crowd.  Learning  of  the  proposed  demonstration, 
the  trustees  had  hastily  withdrawn  their  permission  to  hold 
the  meeting  there,  whereupon  Tappan  and  his  friends  ad- 
journed to  the  Chatham  Street  Chapel  uptown.  Garrison,  un- 


TRIUMPH  AND  DOUBT  IN    1833  169 

aware  of  the  change  in  plans  and  afraid  that  he  might  be 
recognized  any  moment  by  the  mob  shouting  his  name,  turned 
on  his  heel  and  left. 

Meanwhile  the  mob  moved  on  to  Tammany  Hall  for  a 
meeting  of  their  own.  On  the  platform  in  the  front  of  the 
dusty  hall  sat  two  of  the  city's  well-known  newspapermen, 
Colonel  Webb  and  young  James  Gordon  Bennett,  who  had 
brought  along  with  them  the  Portland  Yankee  John  Neal, 
Garrison's  old  nemesis.  All  three  were  hostile  to  the  abolition- 
ists and  not  averse  to  stirring  up  a  mob  if  they  could  thereby 
upset  Arthur  Tappan's  plans.  Under  the  mistaken  impression 
that  Garrison  was  the  real  instigator  of  the  meeting  at  Clinton 
Hall  and  was  now  somewhere  in  the  audience,  Neal  stepped 
to  the  edge  of  the  platform  and  demanded  that  he  come  for- 
ward and  defend  his  views.  Hearing  no  response,  he  plunged 
into  a  denunciation  of  anti-slavery.  Suddenly  word  came  that 
Tappan  and  his  friends  could  be  found  in  the  Chatham 
Street  Chapel,  and  with  a  roar  the  crowd  poured  out  of 
Tammany  headed  for  Chatham  Street.  There  they  found  the 
huge  iron  gates  to  the  chapel  locked.  Inside,  the  abolitionists 
were  just  completing  the  order  of  business.  While  the  mob 
outside  debated  the  best  way  of  forcing  their  way  in,  the 
abolitionists  hurriedly  appointed  a  couple  of  committees,  ad- 
journed sine  die  and  fled  by  the  rear  door  just  as  a  horde  of 
rioters  swarmed  in  the  front  entrance.  Once  in  the  chapel 
they  held  a  mock  meeting  presided  over  by  a  frightened 
Negro  whom  they  had  collared  on  the  way  and  dubbed 
"Arthur  Tappan,"  and  after  an  hour's  frolic  they  dispersed. 

Not  until  the  next  morning  did  Garrison  learn  he  had  been 
a  part  of  the  proceedings,  whereupon  he  quickly  slipped  into 
the  role  of  the  coolheaded  knight-errant  who  stood  bravely 
by  while  a  hysterical  mob  shouted  for  his  head.  Back  in  Bos- 
ton he  told  his  readers  of  his  reception. 


170  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GAKRISON 

As  soon  as  I  landed,  I  turned  the  city  of  New  York  upside  down. 
Five  thousand  people  turned  out  to  see  me  tarred  and  feathered, 
but  were  disappointed.  As  to  the  menaces  and  transactions  of  the 
New  York  mob,  I  regard  them  with  mingled  emotions  of  pity 
and  contempt.  I  was  an  eye-witness  of  that  mob,  from  the  hour 
of  its  assembling  at  Clinton  Hall  to  its  final  assault  upon  the 
Chatham  Street  Chapel  -  standing  by  it,  undisguisedly,  as  calm 
in  my  feelings  as  if  those  who  were  seeking  my  life  were  my 
warmest  supporters.  ...  For  myself,  I  am  ready  to  brave  any 
danger,  even  unto  death.17 

It  was  no  wonder,  he  went  on,  that  New  York  raged  at 
his  triumph  -  "the  secret  of  their  malice  lies  in  the  triumph- 
ant success  of  my  mission.  Had  I  failed  to  vanquish  the  agent 
of  the  American  Colonization  Society,  or  to  open  the  eyes 
of  the  British  philanthropists  to  its  naked  deformity,  there 
would  have  been  no  excitement  on  my  return."18  Frustrated 
in  their  attempt  to  discredit  him  in  England,  the  colonization- 
ists  resorted  to  violence  at  home:  the  Clinton  Hall  mob  had 
been  collected  for  the  sole  purpose  of  destroying  William 
Lloyd  Garrison. 

Following  his  providential  escape  from  the  clutches  of  the 
colonizationists,  he  was  more  determined  than  ever  to  srtike 
for  a  national  society  while  his  reputation  still  glowed.  The 
Liberator  was  bankrupt  and  he  owed  Arthur  Tappan  the  two 
hundred  dollars  he  had  borrowed  from  Nathaniel  Paul.  If 
ever  he  needed  organized  support  outside  of  Boston  it  was 
now.  "I  am  more  and  more  impressed  with  the  importance 
of  "working  whilst  the  day  lasts,'  "  he  wrote  early  in  Novem- 
ber. "If  'we  all  do  fade  as  a  leaf/  —  if  we  are  'as  the  sparks 
that  fly  upwards'  —  if  the  billows  of  time  are  swiftly  remov- 
ing the  sandy  foundations  of  our  life  — what  we  intend  to 
do  for  the  captive,  and  for  our  country,  and  for  the  subjuga- 
tion of  a  hostile  world,  must  be  done  quickly/'1*  In  short, 


TRIUMPH  AND  DOXJBT  IN    1833  171 

it  was  time  to  cash  in.  on  his  reputation  before  it  was  too  late. 

The  New  York  Committee  was  of  a  different  mind,  for  the 
Clinton  Hall  affair  indicated  to  them  the  need  for  moderation. 
Winter  was  nearly  upon  them  and  travel  from  the  West 
would  be  expensive  and  hazardous.  Better  wait  until  spring 
wheji  the  delegates  to  the  annual  meetings  of  the  benevolent 
societies  would  be  congregating  in  New  York.  Then  there 
would  be  a  possibility  of  calling  a  real  convention.  Garrison 
refused  to  listen  to  these  arguments  and  insisted  that  the  call 
go  forth  at  once.  Postponing  the  meeting,  he  fumed,  meant 
capitulating  to  the  mob.  Against  their  better  judgment  the 
committee  gave  way  before  his  hectoring  and  drew  up  a 
circular  inviting  all  the  friends  of  abolition  to  a  convention 
to  be  held  in  Philadelphia  on  December  4.  They  explained 
their  change  of  plans  by  citing  the  urgency  of  the  cause, 
which  "must  be  injured  by  unnecessary  delay"  because  "the 
public  expectation  is  already  excited.  .  .  .  We  have  before 
us  numerous  examples  of  similar  organizations,  which,  though 
feeble  and  obscure,  and  condemned  by  public  opinion  in  the 
outset,  have  speedily  risen  to  great  influence,  and  have  been 
the  means,  under  God,  of  immense  benefit  to  the  human 
race."20  The  reasoning  sounded  suspiciously  Garrisonian, 
Privately  Wright  confided  to  Weld  his  own  doubts  as  to  the 
practicality  of  their  decision,  but  admitted  that  "the  most  cool 
and  collected  friends  of  the  cause  here  felt  this  to  be  a  neces- 
sity, after  a  full  view  of  the  case."21  Garrison  had  won  his 
point. 

His  New  England  delegation  assembled  at  New  York's 
City  Hotel  on  the  first  day  of  December  and,  accompanied 
by  Tappan's  deputies,  proceeded  to  Philadelphia,  where  they 
joined  Beriah  Green  and  his  small  contingent  from  Ohio  and 
a  sizable  deputation  of  Pennsylvania  Quakers.  At  an  informal 
meeting  at  the  home  of  Evan  Lewis  on  the  eve  of  the  con- 


ryz  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

vention  the  delegates  attempted  to  find  a  wealthy  Phila- 
delphian  to  preside  over  the  meetings.  Both  Robert  Vaux, 
Cresson's  friend,  and  another  prominent  citizen  declined  the 
offer,  at  which  point  the  laconic  Beriah  Green  announced 
that  if  there  was  not  enough  presidential  timber  among  them- 
selves, they  would  have  to  get  along  without  such  a  figure 
"or  go  home  and  stay  there  until  we  have  grown  up  to  be 
men."  Taking  Green  at  his  word,  the  delegates  elected  him 
to  preside  over  the  convention  which  assembled  the  next 
morning  at  Adelphi  Hall  of  Fifth  Street. 

Garrison's  spirit  dominated  the  members  of  the  convention, 
but  he  himself  did  not.  While  they  admired  his  dedication 
and  perseverance,  the  delegates  were  in  no  mood  to  be  stam- 
peded into  hasty  decisions.  Many  of  them  agreed  with  Lewis 
Tappan  that  Garrison's  name  ought  not  to  be  "inserted  promi- 
nently" lest  it  "keep  away  many  professed  friends  of  aboli- 
tion."22 Still,  that  name  might  be  worth  a  good  deal  when  it 
came  time  to  appeal  to  the  English  for  help.  Even  if  he  was 
notorious  and  overly  concerned  with  his  good  name,  he 
stood  for  the  Christian  zeal  they  intended  to  foster.  Thus  he 
found  himself  cast  in  a  double  role  as  the  guiding  spirit  and 
the  wandering  Jew  of  American  abolition,  constantly  ex- 
tolled but  at  the  same  time  carefully  prevented  from  leading 
the  convention  into  the  wilderness  of  Scriptural  quotation. 

On  the  first  day  a  committee  was  elected  to  draw  up  a  con- 
stitution. He  was  excused  from  this  task  and  placed  instead 
on  a  larger  and  less  important  committee  heavily  weighted 
with  moderates  like  Whittier,  May,  Jocelyn,  and  Green, 
which  was  charged  with  composing  a  Declaration  of  Senti- 
ments. This  group  promptly  delegated  the  work  to  a  sub- 
committee consisting  of  May,  Whittier,  and  Garrison,  in  the 
hope  that  May's  good  sense  and  Whittier's  Quaker  humility 
might  blunt  the  shafts  of  Garrison's  prose.  Whittier  and  May 


TRIUMPH  AND  DOUBT  IN    1833  173 

left  him  in  the  evening  of  the  first  day  sitting  at  a  table  in  his 
room  drafting  the  document  and  returned  the  next  morning 
to  find  him  still  bent  over  the  manuscript.  As  they  had  feared, 
his  Magna  Carta  contained  a  full-page  diatribe  on  coloniza- 
tion which,  if  anything,  outstripped  his  earlier  exercises  in 
invective.  Fortunately,  the  full  committee  spent  three  hours 
pruning  the  declaration  of  its  excrescences  and  the  members 
insisted  on  excising  the  passage  on  colonization.  Garrison 
fought  hard  to  save  it,  arguing  that  colonization  and  slavery 
stood  or  fell  together,  and  only  reluctantly  accepted  the 
majority  opinion.  "All  right,  brethren,"  he  finally  agreed 
after  all  his  objections  had  been  disregarded,  "it  is  your  report, 


not  mine."23 


The  Declaration  of  Sentiments  of  the  American  Anti- 
Slavery  Society  opens  with  a  pointed  reference  to  the  meet- 
ing of  the  signers  of  the  Declaration  of  Independence  in  the 
same  city  fifty-seven  years  before.  "We  have  met  together 
for  the  achievement  of  an  enterprise  without  which  that  of 
our  fathers  is  incomplete;  and  which,  for  its  magnitude, 
solemnity,  and  probable  results  upon  the  destiny  of  the  world, 
as  far  transcends  theirs  as  moral  truth  does  physical  force." 
In  view  of  its  promises  of  liberty  and  equality  the  United 
States  is  the  guiltiest  nation  on  the  face  of  the  earth: 

It  is  bound  to  repent  instantly,  to  undo  the  heavy  burdens,  and 
to  let  the  oppressed  go  free.  .  .  .  The  right  to  enjoy  liberty  is 
inalienable.  To  invade  it  is  to  usurp  the  prerogative  of  Jehovah. 
Every  man  has  a  right  to  his  own  body  —  to  the  products  of  his 
own  labor  —  to  the  protection  of  law  —  and  to  the  common  ad- 
vantages of  society.  .  .  . 

That  all  those  laws  which  are  now  in  force,  admitting  the  right 
of  slavery,  are  therefore  before  God,  utterly  null  and  void;  being 
an  audacious  usurpation  of  the  Divine  prerogative,  a  daring  in- 
fringement on  the  law  of  nature,  a  base  overthrow  of  the  very 


174  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

foundations  of  the  social  compact,  a  complete  extinction  of  all 
the  relations,  endearments  and  obligations  of  mankind,  and  a 
presumptuous  transgression  of  all  the  holy  commandments;  and 
that  therefore  they  ought  instantly  to  be  abrogated. 

Fully  and  unanimously  recognizing  the  sovereignty  of  each 
state,  but  maintaining  the  right  of  Congress  to  regulate  slav- 
ery in  the  territories  under  its  jurisdiction,  the  delegates 
pledged  themselves  to  rely  on  moral  suasion  and  "spare  no 
exertions  nor  means  to  bring  the  whole  nation  to  speedy 
repentance." 

The  declaration  reached  the  floor  of  the  convention  on 
December  5.  Thomas  Shipley,  the  Quaker  delegate  from 
Philadelphia,  objected  to  the  indiscriminate  use  of  the  word 
"man~stealer"  and  suggested  the  qualifying  phrase  "accord- 
ing to  scripture,"  which  was  accepted  despite  Garrison's 
protest  that  the  change  appeared  to  make  liberty  dependent 
on  Biblical  sanction.  Lucretia  Mott,  who  attended  all  the 
sessions,  offered  a  few  verbal  changes,  but  except  for  the 
colonization  branch  which  had  already  been  lopped  off  in 
committee,  the  declaration  was  accepted  almost  as  it  was 
written.  With  a  smile  of  obvious  pleasure  Garrison  watched 
as  each  delegate  stepped  gravely  forward  to  sign  his  name. 

Satisfying  too  was  Lewis  Tappan's  eulogy  placing  him  "in 
die  forefront  of  our  ranks.  .  .  .  He  has  told  the  whole  truth, 
and  put  hypocrites  and  doughfaces  to  open  shame.  .  .  .  He 
has  put  the  anti-slavery  movement  forward  a  quarter  of  a 
century."  Tappan  could  not  deny  his  young  friend's  many 
"imprudences,"  but  it  was  clear,  he  said,  that  God  had  raised 
just  such  a  zealot  to  lead  them.  "Let  each  member  present 
feel  solemnly  bound  to  vindicate  the  character  of  Mr.  Garri- 
son," he  concluded,  scarcely  realizing  the  awesomeness  of 
such  a  task.  Dr.  Abraham  Cox  then  begged  leave  to  read 


TRIUMPH  AND   DOUBT  IN    1833  175 

Whittier's  tribute,  "W.L.G.,"  and  sonorously  intoned  the  six 
stanzas  which  began: 

Champion  of  those  who  groan  beneath 

Oppression's  iron  hand: 
In  view  of  penury,  hate,  and  death 

I  see  thee  fearless  stand, 
Still  bearing  up  thy  lofty  brow 

In  the  steadfast  strength  of  truth, 
In  manhood  sealing  well  the  vow 

And  promise  of  thy  youth. 

The  crown  of  laurels  was  not  without  its  thorns.  As  the 
election  of  officers  approached,  the  delegates  were  perplexed 
to  know  just  what  honor  to  distribute  to  their  hero.  The 
committee  in  charge  of  drawing  up  the  constitution  agreed 
that  Elizur  Wright  should  be  the  secretary  of  the  society. 
The  presidency  obviously  should  go  to  Arthur  Tappan,  who, 
though  unable  to  attend  the  meeting,  was  the  man  most 
responsible  for  its  success.  But  what  to  do  with  Garrison? 
Would  he  accept  a  vice-presidency  or  a  place  on  the  Execu- 
tive Committee  —  would  he,  in  short,  be  willing  to  play  sec- 
ond fiddle?  The  problem  was  solved  temporarily  when  one 
of  the  delegates  suggested  that  they  create  the  office  of  secre- 
tary of  foreign  correspondence  and  ease  Garrison  into  it. 
Accordingly,  he  was  given  the  special  post,  which  he  held 
for  six  weeks  before  resigning  in  a  huff  after  being  told  that 
all  correspondence  should  be  first  submitted  to  the  Executive 
Committee.  His  resignation  gave  the  new  society  the  answer 
to  their  question  —  Garrison  would  play  second  fiddle  to  no 
one. 

There  was  one  final  problem  for  him  to  solve  before  he 
returned  to  Boston,  and  this  was  the  matter  of  repaying  Tap- 
pan  the  two  hundred  dollars  borrowed  from  Nathaniel  Paul 


176  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

At  the  moment  he  hadn't  a  penny.  To  make  matters  worse, 
the  Liberator  was  still  saddled  with  a  thousand  dollars'  worth 
of  unsold  anti-slavery  tracts.  Unless  he  received  some  help  — 
and  that  soon  —  the  Liberator  would  surely  go  under.  He 
therefore  went  to  the  new  Executive  Committee  with  a 
proposition.  The  society  should  undertake  to  buy  four  hun- 
dred and  forty  dollars  worth  of  pamphlets  (a  large  proportion 
of  them  his  Thoughts}.  This,  he  explained,  was  the  very 
least  he  required  to  save  the  Liberator.  But  the  committee 
pointed  out  that  the  society  lacked  the  funds  to  purchase  so 
much  as  a  single  tract  At  this  point  Arthur  Tappan  saved 
the  day  by  offering  to  advance  Garrison  the  money  out  of 
his  own  pocket  and  to  let  the  society  owe  him.  Whereupon 
Garrison  announced  that  it  would  not  be  necessary  to  raise 
the  whole  amount  since  he  already  owed  Tappan  two  hun- 
dred dollars.  Now,  after  paying  him  his  two  hundred  and 
forty  dollar  balance,  the  society  could  owe  the  remaining 
two  hundred  to  Tappan,  who  in  turn  could  owe  it  to  Paul, 
and  he,  Garrison,  would  no  longer  owe  anybody  anything. 
To  his  own  satisfaction  if  not  that  of  the  Executive  Commit- 
tee, he  had  saved  his  paper,  paid  for  his  return  passage,  and 
cleared  his  skirts  of  debt.24 

In  Boston  once  again  he  sat  down  to  cast  up  his  accounts 
of  the  last  twelve  months.  In  many  ways  it  had  been  a  grati- 
fying year —  his  triumph  in  England,  the  organization  of  a 
national  society,  and  a  growing  number  of  followers.  "Al- 
most every  day  brings  some  intelligence  highly  favorable  to 
our  cause,"  he  wrote.25  Beacon  fires  of  liberty  were  beginning 
to  burn  all  over  the  country.  There  was  only  one  cause  for 
dissatisfaction  —  despite  the  accolades  heaped  on  him  in  Phila- 
delphia, the  American  abolitionists  had  declined  to  accept  his 
leadership.  He  had  won  their  praises  but  not  their  support;  a 
national  society  did  not  admit  of  the  personal  control  he 


TRIUMPH   AND   DOUBT   IN    1833  *77 

exercised  over  the  New  England  Society.  At  Philadelphia 
he  had  met  men  every  bit  as  devoted  as  he  was,  tough-minded 
and  outspoken  reformers  who  were  not  to  be  intimidated  by 
belligerence  however  righteous.  They  wanted  what  Elizur 
Wright  called  "the  right  kind  of  fire,"  and  they  were  pre- 
pared to  build  it  themselves.  He  told  his  Boston  partisans  that 
uby  dint  of  some  industry  and  much  persuasion,  I  succeeded 
in  inducing  the  abolitionists  in  New  York  to  join  our  little 
band  in  Boston  in  calling  a  national  convention,"  but  in  his 
heart  he  knew  that  this  was  not  so.26  Already  anti-slavery 
was  growing  faster  than  he  had  anticipated.  To  keep  from 
being  swallowed  up  in  the  national  movement  he  must  assert 
his  control  over  his  own  followers. 

With  this  object  in  mind  he  introduced  a  resolution  at  the 
monthly  meeting  of  the  New  England  Society  in  February, 
1834,  requesting  the  Board  of  Managers  to  call  a  convention 
of  delegates  from  all  the  local  groups  in  New  England.  "Our 
grand  aim  should  now  be  to  effect  a  complete  concentration 
of  all  the  anti-slavery  strength  we  can  muster  that  division 
may  not  weaken  our  efforts  and  that  we  may  all  see  eye  to 
eye."27  His  purpose,  he  said,  was  not  to  make  the  auxiliary 
societies  subservient  to  the  New  England  Society,  but  "to 
devise  ways  and  means  for  the  promotion  of  our  glorious 
cause."  Just  what  these  means  were  New  England  abolition- 
ists were  to  learn  in  the  course  of  the  next  four  years  as  one 
by  one  he  produced  them  for  their  approval  —  woman's 
rights,  nonresistance,  and  Christian  perfectionism.  Having 
failed  to  capture  the  national  society,  he  began  gathering  his 
forces  for  a  second  assault. 


Mobs  and  Martyrs 


IN  SEPTEMBER,  1834,  Garrison  married  Helen  Eliza  Benson 
of  Brooklyn,  Connecticut.  His  marriage,  a  singularly  happy 
one,  afforded  the  additional  advantage  of  allying  his  own 
Boston  followers  with  the  anti-slavery  forces  in  southern 
New  England.  Helen's  father,  old  George  Benson,  had  been 
an  abolitionist  ever  since  he  helped  found  the  Providence 
Anti-Slavery  Society  back  in  1792.  At  the  time  of  his  daugh- 
ter's marriage  the  eighty-two-year-old  Benson  was  president 
of  the  New  England  Anti-Slavery  Society  and  the  patriarch 
of  a  large  family  known  for  its  austere  moral  code.  A  mem- 
ber of  the  prosperous  Providence  firm  of  Brown,  Benson  and 
Ives,  he  had  retired  in  1796  after  a  heated  quarrel  with  his 
partners  and  withdrawn  to  his  Brooklyn  farmhouse,  where 
he  spent  the  rest  of  his  life  directing  projects  for  Christian 
reform.  To  the  Benson  farm  came  Benjamin  Lundy  and  Wil- 
liam Ladd,  young  John  Whittier,  Samuel  May,  and  finally 
Garrison  himself  to  ask  Benson's  advice  and  the  help  of  his 
two  sons,  George,  Jr.,  and  Henry. 

Twenty-three-year-old  Helen,  her  father's  favorite,  was  a 
plain  girl  with  heavy  features  and  placid  expression,  self- 
conscious,  shy,  quick,  practical  and  shrewd.  Her  sensitivity 
and  quiet  humor,  hidden  beneath  a  self-effacing  manner,  quite 
escaped  her  husband,  whose  very  real  devotion  did  not  in- 


MOBS  AND  MARTYRS  179 

crease  his  power  of  perception,  Helen's  was  a  selfless  love, 
the  antithesis  of  Fanny's  possessive  worship  of  her  son.  Garri- 
son still  clung  to  the  memory  of  his  mother  but  married  her 
opposite. 

Helen  first  met  Garrison  on  the  eve  of  his  departure  for 
England  when  he  spoke  one  evening  at  the  African  Church  in 
Providence.  Her  brother  George,  an  ardent  abolitionist  like 
his  father,  brought  her  along  to  hear  the  Boston  Daniel  bait 
the  lions  of  College  Hill,  and  after  the  lecture  he  introduced 
her  to  the  great  Garrison.  Later  they  both  testified  to  the 
f atefulness  of  this  meeting,  but  within  a  week  he  was  off  to 
England,  and  nearly  a  year  passed  before  he  opened  his 
campaign  for  her  hand.1 

A  campaign  it  was,  complete  with  Stendhalian  strategies 
for  trapping  the  unwary  Helen.  For  one  who  boldly  courted 
notoriety,  Garrison  was  a  timid  lover  as  though  fearful  of 
bruising  his  ego  in  an  open  encounter.  He  knew  just  the  kind 
of  wife  he  wanted  —  a  woman  of  "good  sense"  and  "talent," 
given  to  no  "unseemly  familiarity  of  conduct"  or  "reckless 
disregard  of  all  the  rules  of  propriety."  In  short,  a  wife  with 
a  spirit  exactly  in  unison  with  his  own,  who  would  provide 
home  and  family  and  submit  to  his  mastery.  Even  when 
Helen  Benson  met  all  these  demands,  he  was  slow  to  declare 
himself.  When  his  veiled  hints  and  constant  probing  drove 
her  to  protest  her  unworthiness  to  be  the  wife  of  a  great 
humanitarian,  he  replied  peevishly  that  he  had  been  "both 
vain  and  presumptuous"  —  "vain,  in  supposing  that  my  letters 
can  either  amuse  or  interest  you  —  presumptuous  in  thrusting 
them  so  frequently  upon  your  notice."2  Whereupon  poor 
Helen  confessed  — if  he  might  overlook  her  many  deficien- 
cies, "I  see  not  why  I  may  not  gratefully  acknowledge  your 
attention  in  conferring  so  high  an  obligation  upon  me,  and  I 
sincerely  respond  to  every  tender  expression  of  feeling.  .  .  . 


180  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

I  have  opened  my  heart  to  you."3  Then  followed  his  own 
belated  declaration.  "Oh!  generous,  confiding,  excellent  girl! 
Do  you  then  reciprocate  my  love?  Yes,  my  fears  are  dis- 
pelled, my  hopes  confirmed  —  and  I  shed  delicious  tears  of 
joy!  ...  I  did  not  dare  to  presume  that  you  regarded  me 
with  so  much  esteem."4 

His  own  self-esteem  intact  and  master  of  the  situation  once 
more,  he  lectured  poor  Helen  on  the  impropriety  of  flattering 
him  and  apprised  her  of  her  duties.  She  must  guard  against 
becoming  "exalted  in  her  mind"  as  well  as  against  "excessive 
humility."  She  should  avoid  "all  tawdry  and  artificial  aids  to 
the  embellishment  of  her  person."  It  was  a  wonderful  favor, 
he  reminded  her,  to  be  a  dutiful  child  of  God,  an  obedient 
disciple  of  the  meek  and  lowly  Jesus,  and  he  prayed  that  she 
be  kept  from  the  temptations  and  snares  of  the  world,  from 
slothfulness  and  folly.5 

Helen  responded  eagerly  to  his  suggestions,  anxious  lest 
Lloyd,  as  she  now  called  him,  think  her  "not  sufficiently 
grateful."  She  loved  him,  she  admitted,  "a  thousand  times 
more  than  my  tongue  or  pen  can  utter."6 

Having  carried  his  siege,  Garrison  wanted  to  be  married 
as  soon  as  possible.  Gallantly  he  addressed  her  as  his  "Charm- 
ing Conqueror"  but  added  the  sobering  reflection  that  their 
contemplated  union  "gives  universal  satisfaction  among  my 
friends  both  white  and  colored."7  He  gave  precise  instruc- 
tions for  the  wedding:  no  "extravagance"  or  "eccentricity," 
no  "showy  kind"  of  wedding  cake  or  expensive  gifts.  The 
ceremony  to  be  performed  by  May  and  held  in  the  morn- 
ing to  allow  the  wedding  party  to  reach  Worcester  by  night- 
fall. He  had  rented  a  small  house  in  Roxbury  which  he 
called  Freedom's  Cottage.  Without  consulting  Helen  he 
furnished  it  and  hired  a  housekeeper  whom  he  assured  her 
was  "modest"  in  her  deportment  and  "genteel  in  her  ap- 


MOBS  AND   MARTYRS       l8l 

pearance."  Helen  applauded  his  new  domesticity.  "Do  not 
fear  but  everything  will  suit  me/'  she  wrote.  "I  can  assure 
you  I  am  not  difficult."8 

Following  a  ceremony  tailored  to  the  bridegroom's  speci- 
fications, the  wedding  party,  including  Garrison's  Aunt 
Charlotte  and  Helen's  companion  Elizabeth  Chace,  set  out 
for  Freedom's  Cottage  and  a  well-chaperoned  honeymoon. 
In  Worcester,  Garrison  lost  his  baggage,  and  the  cars  made 
Aunt  Charlotte  violently  ill  The  party  arrived  in  Roxbury 
to  find  Isaac  Knapp  and  his  sister,  their  new  boarders,  al- 
ready comfortably  installed.  Even  the  irrepressible  Garrison 
admitted  that  the  arrival  was  "gloomy  enough."  Two  days 
later  his  equanimity  had  returned,  and  he  was  able  to  report 
to  Helen's  sister  Anna  that  the  Garrisons  eagerly  awaited 
a  visit  from  the  Bensons.  "I  can  hardly  realize  as  yet,  that  I 
am  married,"  he  added,  "although  I  have  one  of  the  best 
wives  in  the  world."  She  fulfilled  his  every  expectation.  "Her 
disposition  is  certainly  remarkable  —  so  uniformly  placid, 
so  generous  and  disinterested,  so  susceptible  and  obliging, 
so  kind  and  attentive."9  Helen  would  need  all  these  qualities 
in  the  years  to  come. 

In  October,  Garrison  returned  to  the  urgent  problem  of 
saving  his  paper  from  complete  collapse.  The  partners  were 
now  printing  twenty-three  hundred  copies  of  the  Liberator 
each  week,  only  one  quarter  of  which  went  to  white  sub- 
scribers, the  rest  going  to  editors  on  the  exchange  list,  public 
officials,  philanthropic  societies,  and  free  Negroes  who  could 
not  or  would  not  pay  their  bills.  By  1834  ^e  condition  of 
the  paper  was  growing  desperate.  Earlier  in  the  year  Garri- 
son had  enlarged  the  format  and  acquired  six  hundred  new 
subscribers  but  "under  such  circumstances  as  to  afford  us  no 
substantial  aid:  in  fact,  so  remiss  have  they  been  up  to  this 
hour,  in  complying  with  the  terms  of  our  paper,  that  they 


l8l  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

have  only  increased  our  difficulties."10  At  the  end  of  three 
years  unpaid  subscriptions  totaled  two  thousand  dollars. 
Allowing  seven  hundred  dollars  for  the  editor's  salary  (no 
princely  sum,  he  assured  readers)  the  Liberator  showed  an 
annual  deficit  of  seventeen  hundred  dollars. 

The  partners,  casting  about  for  a  solution  to  their  financial 
problems,  proposed  a  scheme  whereby  readers  could  buy 
shares  in  the  paper  payable  to  the  New  England  Society 
which  would  then  undertake  to  manage  the  accounts,  but 
nothing  came  of  their  proposal.  Arnold  Buffum  suggested 
that  Garrison  accept  a  salary  from  the  society,  which  hence- 
forth should  direct  the  editorial  policy  of  the  Liberator, 
but  Garrison  bristled  at  this  threat  to  his  independence.  Nor 
would  he  agree  to  discontinue  the  paper  temporarily,  as 
Elkur  Wright  advised,  while  he  canvassed  the  countryside  for 
funds.  Henry  Ware,  May's  old  teacher,  saw  Garrison's  em- 
barrassment as  an  opportunity  to  put  the  editor  in  his  place, 
and  offered  the  support  of  Boston  philanthropists  in  exchange 
for  the  power  of  censorship  vested  in  a  board  of  managers, 
"each  of  whom  should,  a  week  at  a  time,  examine  all  articles 
.  .  .  and  induce  Mr.  Garrison  to  promise  to  publish  nothing 
there  which  should  not  have  been  approved  by  them."11 
Ware's  plan  died  quietly,  and  he  himself  admitted  that  he 
had  been  rash  in  proposing  it  since  "all  who  know  Mr. 
Garrison  know  that  he  is  not  a  man  to  be  controlled  or 
advised." 

Even  Garrison's  friends  admitted  that  something  must  be 
done  to  soften  his  abusive  tone.  Elizur  Wright  complained 
of  the  difficulty  of  converting  otherwise  good  men  "who  can 
not  give  up  their  grudge  against  Garrison."12  Charles  Stuart 
told  Helen  Garrison  that  the  only  "jangle  of  words"  he  had 
ever  had  with  her  husband  "was  when  I  cautioned  him  on. 
the  severity  of  his  language"  and  asked  her  to  remind  Garri- 


MOBS  AND   MARTYRS  183 

son  "not  to  forget  it."13  Charles  Follen,  the  aggressive  Harvard 
professor  who  lost  his  job  by  joining  the  abolitionists,  re- 
fused to  become  identified  with  the  party  of  the  Liberator 
because  he  distrusted  its  editor.  Even  Garrison's  friend  and 
patron  Lewis  Tappan  admitted  that  several  of  his  colleagues 
disapproved  of  the  Liberator  and  refused  to  support  it.  His 
brother  Arthur,  for  one,  had  become  so  dissatisfied  with 
Garrison's  policies  that  he  was  contemplating  a  new  society 
in  New  England  composed  exclusively  of  anti-Garrisonian 
moderates. 

Still  worse  was  the  reluctance  of  new  men  to  join  a  society 
dominated  by  the  "madman  Garrison."  Gerrit  Smith,  the 
reformer  from  New  York,  balked  when  Elizur  Wright  sug- 
gested he  join  the  abolitionists  and  asked  whether  the  Liber- 
ator more  than  any  other  paper  was  the  favorite  mouthpiece 
of  the  anti-slavery  societies.  Only  when  assured  that  the 
paper  spoke  solely  for  its  editor  did  he  agree  to  support  the 
abolitionists.  James  G.  Birney,  another  convert  from  coloni- 
zation, wondered  whether  the  Liberator  would  prove  the 
fire  ship  of  the  anti-slavery  fleet. 

Even  more  ominous  was  the  growing  breach  between 
Garrison  and  the  New  England  clergy.  At  Andover  Semi- 
nary professors  warned  their  students  against  the  imprudences 
of  the  Liberator  party.  Professor  Sidney  Willard,  Ware's 
colleague  at  the  Harvard  Divinity  School,  joined  in  deploring 
Garrison's  growing  influence,  and  at  Yale  Leonard  Bacon 
used  faculty  disapproval  of  the  Liberator  to  strengthen  the 
colonization  forces  on  campus.  In  Boston  the  evangelical 
clergy,  taking  their  cue  from  Beecher,  approached  Chan- 
ning's  followers  with  a  plan  for  forming  a  society  of  moder- 
ates to  "put  down"  Garrison.  In  the  quiet  of  his  Concord 
study  Emerson  summed  up  this  growing  resistance  in  a 


I&f  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

terse  complaint.  "The  Liberator"  he  noted  in  his  journal, 
"is  a  scold." 

Garrison's  critics  had  reason  to  worry  about  mounting  op- 
position to  anti-slavery  in  the  North.  Amos  Phelps  was 
hardly  surprised  to  learn  that  as  agent  of  the  Massachusetts 
Society  he  was  worth  a  ten-thousand-dollar  reward  in  New 
Orleans.  But  when  a  Methodist  minister  was  mobbed  in  the 
streets  of  Worcester  in  broad  daylight  and  another  clergy- 
man arrested  in  Northfield,  New  Hampshire,  as  a  common 
brawler,  that  was  different!  All  over  New  England  there 
were  similar  signs  of  growing  protest.  The  president  of 
Arnherst  College  demanded  the  dissolution  of  the  college 
anti-slavery  society  on  the  grounds  that  it  was  "alienating 
Christian  brethren,  retarding  and  otherwise  injuring  the 
cause  of  religion  in  the  College,  and  threatening  in  many 
ways  the  prosperity  of  the  institution."14  In  Washington, 
Connecticut,  the  principal  of  the  local  school  was  fired  and 
driven  out  of  town  for  expressing  abolitionist  opinions; 
and  in  New  Canaan,  New  Hampshire,  an  experiment  in 
biracial  education  at  Northfield  Academy  ended  abruptly 
when  the  townspeople  hitched  a  hundred  yoke  of  oxen  to 
the  school  and  dragged  it  off  into  a  nearby  swamp.  Emerson 
and  Horace  Mann  were  hooted  when  they  tried  to  speak  on 
the  subject  of  slavery.  Whittier  was  roughly  handled  in 
Garrison's  home  town.  Charles  Burleigh,  a  recent  addition 
to  Garrison's  staff,  was  mobbed  in  Mansfield,  Massachusetts. 
To  many  of  these  men  it  seemed  that  as  the  clarion  of  anti- 
slavery  the  Liberator  was  not  an  asset  but  a  liability  and  that 
the  cause  of  their  troubles  lay  in  Garrison's  intemperate  and 
abusive  language. 

Garrison  fought  boldly  for  his  editorial  freedom.  The  hue 
and  cry  against  his  paper,  he  insisted,  was  itself  a  sign  of 
progress.  Four  years  ago  there  had  not  been  so  much  as  a 


MOBS  AND  MARTYRS  185 

peep  or  a  mutter  on  the  slavery  question  in  the  whole 
country.  Now  the  subject  was  on  every  tongue. 

Within  four  years,  I  have  seen  my  principles  embraced  cordially 
and  unalterably,  by  thousands  of  the  best  men  in  the  nation.  If 
God  has  made  me  a  signal  instrument  in  the  accomplishment  of 
this  astonishing  change,  it  is  not  for  me  to  glory,  but  to  be  thank- 
ful. What  else  but  the  Liberator  primarily,  (and  of  course  instru- 
mentally,)  has  effected  this  change?  Greater  success  than  I  have 
had,  no  man  could  reasonably  desire,  or  humbly  expect.  Greater 
success  no  man  could  obtain,  peradventure  without  endangering 
his  reliance  upon  an  almighty  arm.15 

Once  again  vanity  obscured  the  truth:  neither  the  New 
York  abolitionists  nor  Weld's  followers  in  the  West  un- 
reservedly accepted  the  Garrisonian  formula  of  immediate 
emancipation.  The  New  York  Society  still  felt  it  necessary 
to  modify  his  phrase  to  "immediate  emancipation,  gradually 
accomplished."  Weld  and  the  Westerners,  puzzled  by  the 
semantics  of  their  New  York  brethren,  inverted  their  motto 
to  "gradual  emancipation,  immediately  begun."  All  the  aboli- 
tionists agreed  with  Garrison  that  slavery  must  be  wiped 
out  as  soon  as  possible,  but  no  one  knew  exactly  what  his 
formula  meant.  Nowhere  outside  his  own  bailiwick  in  New 
England  was  his  notion  of  immediate  emancipation  unquali- 
fiedly accepted.  His  flat  assertion  to  the  contrary  convinced 
no  one  but  himself. 

Scarcely  more  convincing  was  his  argument  that  language 
was,  after  all,  a  matter  of  taste  —  "and  where  is  the  standard 
of  taste?"  Though  he  admitted  that  his  words  were  not 
always  happily  chosen,  he  explained  that  as  an  editor  he 
necessarily  wrote  in  great  haste  and  could  not  remodel 
and  criticize  as  he  liked.  Lest  his  critics  seize  on  this  as  an 
admission  of  guilt,  however,  he  proceeded  to  make  a  distinc- 


1 86  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

tion  between  principles  and  language  only  to  flout  it  with 
triumphant  illogicality  by  proving  that  the  "fallacy"  of  the 
moderates  sprang  from  their  erroneous  principles. 

When  he  examined  the  reaction  of  the  American  public  to 
anti-slavery,  he  was  on  firm  ground  once  again.  What  single 
abolitionist,  he  asked,  had  escaped  the  wrath  of  the  people? 
"Are  not  all  their  names  cast  out  as  evil?  Are  they  not  all 
branded  as  fanatics,  disorganizes  and  madmen?"  Whittier's 
quiet  manner  did  not  protect  him,  nor  did  Beriah  Green's 
vigorous  tone  make  him  popular.  Phelps,  Foilen,  Goodell, 
Birney,  —  all  with  styles  superior,  no  doubt,  to  his  own  — 
were  as  cordially  despised  as  he  was.  "Why  are  they  thus 
maltreated  and  calumniated?  Certainly  not  for  the  phrase- 
ology which  they  use,  but  for  the  principles  which  they 
adopted."  The  truth  was  —  and  here  Garrison  reached  the 
heart  of  the  issue  — that  an  anti-slavery  minority  had  col- 
lided with  the  conservative  instinct  of  an  American  society 
determined  to  ignore  the  moral  question  of  slavery.  But  he 
went  further  —  he  accused  Northern  businessmen  and  South- 
ern slaveholders  of  conniving  to  destroy  American  freedom 
and  plunge  the  country  into  barbarism.  Both  had  a  vested 
interest  in  corruption,  and  to  protect  this  interest  they  were 
willing  to  proscribe  and  persecute.  Against  their  dark  con- 
spiracy the  abolitionists  stood  almost  alone.  "It  is  true,  not 
many  mighty  have  as  yet  been  called  to  this  sacred  strife," 
he  wrote  to  Channing.  "Like  every  other  great  reform,  it 
has  been  commenced  by  obscure  and  ignorant  men.  It  is 
God's  mode  commonly,  to  choose  the  foolish  things  of  the 
world  to  confound  the  wise;  because  his  foolishness  is  wiser 
than  men,  and  his  weakness  stronger  than  men."  Like  a  tree 
planted  by  the  water,  the  Saints  would  not  be  moved. 

Ten  years  earlier  Garrison's  naive  conspiracy  theory  of 
history  would  have  been  discarded  as  the  absurdity  it  was. 


MOBS  AND  MARTYRS  187 

But  in  1834  events  in  the  North  and  the  South  were  combin- 
ing to  give  his  convenient  oversimplification  the  appearance 
of  fact.  Southern  intellectuals  were  perfecting  their  theory 
of  reactionary  paternalism  that  utterly  repudiated  civil  liber- 
ties. With  its  new  "positive  good"  weapon  the  South  was 
preparing  an  offensive  against  its  critics  which  succeeded 
in  silencing  them  at  the  cost  of  free  institutions.  Once  ap- 
prised of  the  abolitionists'  intentions  Southern  legislators 
reacted  with  near  unanimity.  Three  years  after  the  founding 
of  the  American  Anti-Slavery  Society  every  Southern  state 
had  passed  laws  prohibiting  the  organization  of  anti-slavery 
societies  within  their  borders  and  preventing  the  dissemination 
of  abolitionist  literature.  Even  more  effective  than  laws  in 
securing  uniformity  were  the  vigilance  committees,  groups 
of  prominent  citizens  in  Southern  communities  entrusted  with 
the  execution  of  "justice"  on  those  foolish  enough  to  doubt 
the  wisdom  of  slavery.  These  committees  saw  to  it  that  local 
mails  stayed  closed  to  anti-slavery  literature  and  that  state 
laws  prohibiting  debate  on  slavery  were  duly  enforced.  By 
interrogating  travelers  and  inspecting  their  baggage,  by 
aiding  local  postmasters  and  offering  rewards  for  the  ap- 
prehension of  notorious  abolitionists  like  Garrison  and  Arthur 
Tappan  they  soon  perfected  all  the  inquisitorial  techniques 
of  a  reign  of  terror.  Typical  of  their  efficiency  was  the 
work  of  the  vigilance  committee  in  Nashville,  Tennessee, 
in  1835  ***  punishing  Amos  Dresser,  a  student  from  Lane 
Theological  Seminary  unlucky  enough  to  be  caught  with  a 
parcel  of  Bibles  wrapped  in  a  copy  of  the  Emancipator. 
Although  Tennessee  had  not  yet  passed  a  law  under  which 
Dresser  could  be  prosecuted,  the  Committee  solved  the 
problem  by  confiscating  his  belongings,  administering  twenty 
lashes  in  the  public  square,  and  driving  him  out  of  town. 
Not  content  with  vigilance  at  home,  Southern  legislatures 


1 88  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

mounted  an  attack  on  the  right  of  petition  and  bombarded 
Northern  states  with  demands  for  action  against  abolitionist 
publishers.  To  the  abolitionists'  dismay  their  demands  drew 
a  sympathetic  response  from  Northern  legislatures.  Only 
Pennsylvania  and  Ohio  flatly  denied  the  constitutionality 
of  such  controls.  Bills  to  regulate  anti-slavery  publications 
were  introduced  in  Maine,  New  Hampshire,  and  Connecti- 
cut. In  Rhode  Island  a  similar  measure  passed  through  com- 
mittee and  was  killed  only  by  the  efforts  of  the  Republican 
Thomas  Dorr.  Governor  Marcy  of  New  York  promised  to 
use  his  upstate  strength  to  bring  the  wild-eyed  abolitionists 
in  the  city  into  line.  And  in  Massachusetts  Garrison  soon 
found  himself  in  mortal  struggle  with  Governor  Everett's 
conservative  Whigs,  who  dominated  the  legislature  and  were 
determined  to  destroy  him. 

It  was  the  reaction  of  the  Northern  public  that  most 
disturbed  the  abolitionists.  Everywhere  there  seemed  to  be 
an  agreement  on  the  need  to  suppress  anti-slavery,  a  view 
which  the  Northern  business  community  and  the  conservative 
press  manipulated  all  too  easily.  In  Cincinnati  James  Birney, 
who  had  abandoned  colonization  and  was  now  a  militant 
abolitionist,  set  up  his  Philanthropist  press  only  to  have  his 
printing  office  torn  apart  and  his  home  methodically  wrecked. 
His  courage  and  persistence  increased  the  hatred  of  his  fel- 
low townsmen  until,  plagued  by  lawsuits  and  hounded  by 
pro-slavery  mobs,  he  left  for  New  York  to  become  the 
secretary  of  the  national  society.  When  James  Thome,  one  of 
Weld's  band,  attempted  to  lecture  in  Granville,  Ohio,  citizens 
of  the  town  drove  him  off  and  burned  the  schoolhouse  where 
he  was  to  speak.  The  indefatigable  Amos  Dresser  was  mobbed 
in  Marblehead,  Massachusetts,  less  than  a  year  after  his 
experience  in  Nashville.  Utica,  New  York,  made  lecturing 
a  distinct  hazard  for  the  abolitionists,  and  from  Weld  came 


MOBS  AND  MARTYRS  189 

periodic  reports  of  violence  in  the  West.  Lecturing  in  the 
Presbyterian  Church  in  the  village  of  CirclevHle,  Ohio,  he 
was  struck  on  the  temple  by  a  rock.  While  he  sat  down  to 
clear  his  head,  the  audience  hung  cloaks  and  coats  over  the 
windows,  and  he  managed  to  finish  his  talk.  The  next  night 
the  church  was  closed  and  he  had  to  deliver  his  lecture  in  an 
abandoned  storeroom  while  a  mob  outside  pelted  the  shutters 
with  rocks.  Not  far  away  in  Berlin,  Ohio,  Marius  Robinson 
was  dragged  out  in  the  middle  of  the  night,  stripped,  tarred 
and  feathered,  and  driven  into  the  woods. 

For  the  most  part  undaunted,  the  abolitionists  kept  right 
on  lecturing.  John  W.  Alvord,  another  of  Weld's  "joyous 
warriors,"  kept  up  his  spirits  by  retailing  humorous  accounts 
of  the  vicissitudes  of  his  calling.  "Last  night  Midd[l]ebury 
puked,"  he  reported  to  Weld  on  one  occasion.  "Her  stomach 
had  evidently  been  overloaded.  .  .  .  Spasmodic  heavings  and 
wretchings  were  manifest  during  the  whole  day.  Toward 
night  symptoms  more  alarming."  Warned  off  by  the  town 
fathers,  Alvord  and  Thome  insisted  on  holding  their  meet- 
ing. 

All  still  until  about  8  [o'clock]  when  in  came  a  broadside  of 
Eggs,  Glass,  Egg  shells,  white  and  yolks  flew  on  every  side.  Br. 
Thom[e's]  Fact  Book  received  an  egg  just  in  its  bowels  and  I 
doubt  whether  one  in  the  house  escaped  a  spattering.  I  have  been 
trying  to  clean  off  this  morning,  but  cant  get  off  the  stink.  Thome 
dodged  like  a  stoned  gander.  He  brought  up  at  length  against 
the  side  of  the  desk,  cocked  his  eye  and  stood  gazing  upward  at 
the  flying  missiles  as  they  stream  [e]d  in  ropy  masses  through 
the  house.  ...  He  apologizes  to  me  this  morning  by  saying  he 
thought  the  stove  was  crackin! ! ! ! ie 

Eggs  were  one  thing,  the  organized  savagery  of  city  mobs 
another.  The  climax  to  this  early  outbreak  of  violence  came 


190  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

in  the  summer  of  1835  ^n  New  York,  when,  in  a  sudden 
burst  of  race  hatred  mobs  roamed  the  streets  breaking  up 
a  meeting  of  the  American  Anti-Slavery  Society,  sacking 
Lewis  Tappan's  house,  and  invading  the  Negro  section  and 
methodically  wrecking  three  churches,  a  school,  and  twenty 
homes. 

Thus  James  Birney  hardly  exaggerated  when  he  warned 
that  the  antagonist  principles  of  liberty  and  slavery  had  been 
roused  into  action  and  only  one  could  be  victorious.  Garri- 
son turned  his  warning  into  a  denunciation  of  the  South. 
"And  what  has  brought  our  country  to  the  verge  of  ruin. 

,   .   .   THE    ACCURSED    SYSTEM    OF    SLAVERY!     To    SUStain    that 

system,  there  is  a  general  willingness  to  destroy  LIBERTY  OF 
SPEECH  and  of  the  PRESS,  and  to  mob  or  murder  all  who  op- 
pose it.  In  the  popular  fury  against  the  advocates  of  a  bleed- 
ing humanity,  every  principle  of  justice,  every  axiom  of 
liberty,  every  feeling  of  humanity  — all  the  fundamental 
axioms  of  republican  government  are  derided  and  violated 
with  fatal  success."17  This  histrionic  identification  of  civil 
rights  and  the  anti-slavery  cause  was  to  prove  the  most 
effective  weapon  in  the  Garrisonian  arsenal,  an  argument 
which  eventually  turned  back  the  pro-slavery  assault  on  free 
society.  In  presenting  the  anti-slavery  minority  as  the  victims 
of  a  demonic  slave  power  and,  above  all,  by  posing  as  their 
chief  martyr,  he  dramatized  the  fundamental  issues  of  free- 
dom and  won  the  grudging  support  of  a  number  of  Northern 
moderates  who  finally  recognized  the  Southern  threat  to 
free  institutions. 

The  first  of  Garrison's  martyrs  was  Prudence  Crandall,  a 
fragile,  birdlike  zealot  from  Canterbury,  Connecticut,  who 
marched  into  the  office  of  the  Liberator  in  January,  1833. 
Two  years  before,  she  had  bought  a  rambling  house  on  the 
Canterbury  green  and  opened  a  boarding  school  for  young 


MOBS  AND  MARTYRS  19 1 

ladies.  Her  school  prospered  until  she  enrolled  a  young 
colored  girl,  whereupon  the  offended  townspeople  resolved 
to  protect  white  womanhood  by  boycotting  the  school.  Miss 
Crandall  was  ready  to  abandon  her  experiment  in  bkacial 
education  when  she  happened  to  read  one  of  Garrison's  edi- 
torials proposing  a  manual  labor  college  for  Negroes,  which 
gave  her  the  idea  of  opening  her  school  to  colored  girls  ex- 
clusively. She  wrote  to  Garrison  telling  him  of  her  plan  and 
requesting  an  interview.  "I  do  not  dare  tell  any  one  of  my 
neighbors  about  the  contemplated  change  in  my  school," 
she  added,  "and  I  beg  of  you,  sir,  that  you  will  not  expose 
it  to  any  one;  for  if  it  was  known,  I  have  no  reason  to  doubt 
but  it  would  ruin  my  present  school."18  Ten  days  later  she 
appeared  in  Boston  to  discuss  with  him  the  best  means  of 
finding  pupils.  Garrison  was  convinced  that  the  scheme 
was  practicable,  and  on  March  2,  1833,  the  Liberator  carried 
the  announcement  that  Miss  Crandall  was  now  accepting 
applications  for  her  new  school.  The  notice  was  accompanied 
by  the  editor's  imprimatur  assuring  readers  of  his  "pleasurable 
emotion"  in  contemplating  the  success  of  the  venture  and  of 
his  entire  confidence  in  Miss  Crandall.  News  of  the  proposed 
school  was  already  abroad,  however,  and  by  the  time  Garri- 
son sailed  for  England  Miss  Crandall  was  deep  in  trouble  with 
the  citizens  of  Canterbury  incensed  at  the  prospect  of  a 
"nigger  school"  on  their  doorstep. 

A  little  opposition  was  all  that  the  abolitionists  needed  to 
turn  the  affair  into  an  anti-slavery  came  celebre.  Arnold 
Buffum  was  dispatched  by  the  New  England  Society  to 
argue  Miss  Crandall's  case  in  a  Canterbury  town  meeting. 
Samuel  May  offered  his  services,  and  the  Benson  brothers 
hurried  over  from  Providence.  From  New  York  came  word 
that  Arthur  Tappan  stood  ready  to  meet  all  expenses.  Mean- 
while fifteen  or  twenty  colored  girls  were  recruited  from 


192  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

Providence,  Boston,  and  New  Haven,  and  classes  at  the 
school  began.  Then  the  townspeople  discovered  an  old  va- 
grancy law  on  the  books  and  threatened  to  enforce  it.  Canter- 
bury rallied  in  protest  against  Miss  Crandall's  experiment; 
grocers  refused  to  sell  to  the  school,  doctors  declined  to 
attend  the  students,  and  town  loafers  added  their  bit  by 
molesting  Miss  Crandall  and  the  girls.  Andrew  Judson,  the 
spokesman  for  the  town,  rushed  up  to  Hartford,  where  he 
found  a  majority  of  the  legislature  willing  to  pass  a  law  pro- 
hibiting the  establishment  of  schools  for  out-of-state  students 
without  permission  of  the  local  authorities.  Although  the 
law  was  a  clear  violation  of  constitutional  rights,  it  served  its 
purpose.  The  school  was  closed,  Miss  Crandall  arraigned, 
and  her  trial  set  for  August.  After  a  single  night  in  jail  spent 
in  the  cell  of  a  recently  convicted  murderer  she  emerged 
to  learn  that  overnight  she  had  become  the  heroine  of  the 
anti-slavery  movement.  At  the  trial  the  jury  was  unable  to 
reach  a  verdict,  but  a  few  weeks  later  a  second  jury  convicted 
her  on.  the  charges  of  accepting  nonresident  pupils  and  teach- 
ing them.  The  case  was  appealed  to  the  state  supreme  court, 
where  about  a  year  later  the  decision  of  the  trial  court  was 
reversed  on  grounds  of  insufficient  evidence.  After  twelve 
months  of  costly  litigation  Miss  Crandall  had  won  her  case 
but  lost  her  school:  her  fellow  townsmen  celebrated  their 
legal  defeat  by  breaking  the  windows  of  the  school,  filling 
the  well  with  manure,  and  decorating  the  fence  with  dead 
cats.  In  the  summer  of  1834  Miss  Crandall  gave  up  the 
school,  married  a  Baptist  clergyman  and  moved  West. 

At  first  Garrison  was  impressed  with  the  tenacity  of  the 
Quaker  schoolmistress.  "She  is  a  wonderful  woman,"  he 
wrote  to  Knapp,  "as  undaunted  as  if  she  had  the  whole 
world  on  her  side."19  He  ordered  Knapp  and  Johnson  in  his 
absence  in  England  to  make  full  use  of  her  case,  and  when, 


MOBS  AND   MARTYRS  193 

just  as  he  sailed,  Canterbury  committed  its  "outrageous 
crime,"  he  urged  them  to  make  a  prompt  defense.  "If  we 
suffer  the  school  to  be  put  down  in  Canterbury,  other  places 
will  partake  of  the  panic,  and  also  prevent  its  introduction 
in  their  vicinity.  We  may  as  well,  'first  as  last,'  meet  this 
proscriptive  spirit  and  conquer  it."20  When  he  returned  from 
England,  however,  the  Canterbury  cause  was  already  lost 
and  circumstances  had  changed.  In  the  first  place,  Miss 
Crandall  was  not  a  reserved  maiden  lady  but  a  spirited  com- 
batant who  could  trade  epithets  with  the  best  of  her  op- 
ponents. With  her  own  newspaper,  the  Unionist,  she  had 
conducted  an  able  defense  and  given  every  indication  of 
thoroughly  enjoying  her  fame.  Garrison  noted  that  she  was 
in  danger  of  becoming  "exalted  above  measure,"  in  other 
words,  a  nuisance.  He  announced  that  her  usefulness  to 
the  cause  had  ended  and  that  though  abolitionists  should 
continue  to  "make  the  facts  of  this  single  case  tingle  in  the 
ears  of  the  people,"  it  was  best  for  Miss  Crandall  herself 
to  move  off  "with  flying  colors"  and  leave  him  to  cash  in 
the  depreciated  currency  of  her  reputation.21 

To  replace  the  chastened  Miss  Crandall  as  the  star  witness 
to  the  perfidy  of  New  England  he  brought  over  the  English 
agitator  George  Thompson  in  the  fall  of  1834.  The  two 
men  had  first  met  the  previous  year  and  struck  up  an  im- 
mediate and  deep  friendship.  A  year  older  than  Garrison, 
Thompson  had  risen  in  the  English  anti-slavery  ranks  only 
after  years  of  adversity  following  a  moral  lapse  that  nearly 
ruined  his  Hfe.  Some  years  before,  he  had  stolen  a  sum  of 
money  from  his  employer  and  been  caught  red-handed.  He 
readily  confessed  his  crime,  and  in  exchange  for  a  promise 
not  to  prosecute  had  finally  made  good  the  entire  amount. 
Yet  he  was  still  paying  for  his  mistake  —  despite  his  subse- 
quent impeccable  behavior  and  his  services  to  the  anti- 


194  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

slavery  cause  he  was  dogged  by  the  story  of  his  crime  and 
new  charges  of  misappropriation  of  abolitionist  funds.  Tem- 
peramentally he  and  Garrison  were  much  alike.  Both  were 
self-made  men  driven  by  ambition;  both  tried  to  compensate 
for  their  unpopularity  at  home  by  seeking  honor  abroad. 
Thompson  had  a  tall  stately  carriage  and  a  formal  manner 
to  match.  Where  Garrison  achieved  at  best  only  a  blunt 
forcefulness  on  the  platform,  Thompson's  resonant  elo- 
quence spun  a  kind  of  poetry  of  denunciation. 

"He  comes  not  as  a  foreigner  but  as  £a  man  and  a  brother,' 
feeling  for  those  in  bonds  as  bound  with  them/'  Thus  Garri- 
son announced  Thompson's  arrival  in  Boston.  For  all  his 
charm  and  dedication  to  the  cause  Thompson,  something  less 
than  a  success  in  England,  proved  a  distinct  liability  in 
America.  He  received  a  sample  of  the  reception  awaiting  him 
in  the  United  States  when  he  stepped  off  the  boat  to  learn 
that  the  proprietors  of  New  York's  Atlantic  Hotel  had 
canceled  his  reservations  upon  hearing  of  his  anti-slavery 
designs.  It  was  a  measure  of  Garrison's  reckless  disregard 
of  public  opinion  that  in  the  midst  of  his  own  struggles  with 
a  hostile  clergy  he  asked  Thompson  to  bring  the  weight  of 
English  evangelicalism  directly  to  bear  on  his  New  England 
cousins.  Thompson  arrived  in  Boston  to  find  a  conservative 
religious  opposition  preparing  to  deal  with  the  Liberator  and 
its  editor  once  and  for  all. 

The  idea  of  an  anti-slavery  society  composed  of  men  of 
moderation  and  good  sense  proceeded  from  the  fertile  brain 
of  Lyman  Beecher.  More  than  anything  else  Beecher  feared 
disunion  in  church  and  society,  and  as  he  surveyed  the 
work  of  the  anti-slavery  men  in  the  year  1834,  he  was  not 
encouraged  by  what  he  saw.  The  silken  ties,  those  soft  but 
mighty  bands  of  love  that  united  Christians  in  the  North 
and  South,  were  beginning  to  snap.  Beecher  had  no  trouble 


MOBS  AND  MARTYRS  195 

identifying  the  Atropos  of  the  reform  movement  whose 
invective  slashed  the  American  lifeline.  If  Garrison  were 
allowed  to  continue,  he  warned,  abolitionism  would  not 
last  two  years.  Something  must  be  done  immediately.  Beecher 
spent  the  year  1834  as  the  first  president  of  Lane  Seminary 
trying  to  tame  the  reform  impulses  of  his  students  and  direct 
them  into  socially  acceptable  channels.  For  his  pains  he 
received  nothing  but  their  well-deserved  rebukes.  Led  by 
Weld,  the  seminarians  refused  to  be  bridled  and  capped 
their  series  of  protests  by  leaving  the  school.  Back  in  Boston, 
Beecher's  followers,  heartened  by  premature  reports  of  the 
master's  success,  went  forward  with  their  plans  for  a  society 
based  on  "benevolent  and  enlarged  feeling"  whose  first  task 
would  be  to  "put  down"  Garrison. 

The  American  Union  for  the  Relief  and  Improvement  of 
the  Colored  Race  —  that  "soulless  organization  with  a  sound- 
ing title,"  as  Garrison  dubbed  it  — was  nearly  stillborn.  The 
handful  of  clergymen  who  met  in  Tremont  Hall  on  January 
14,  1835,  were  confronted  with  their  archenemy  accompanied 
by  George  Thompson  and  the  rest  of  the  Garrisonians  who 
demanded  to  know  the  purpose  of  the  new  society.  Receiving 
no  answer  and  requested  to  leave,  they  opened  a  filibuster 
instead,  whereupon  Thompson  was  declared  out  of  order 
and  then  "impertinent."  The  intruders  next  asked  whether 
the  American  Union  was  to  be  open  to  "all  friends  of  anti- 
slavery,"  as  the  first  call  had  declared,  or  merely  to  those  who 
"believe  a  new  organization  is  necessary,"  as  a  subsequent 
announcement  proclaimed.  Once  again  they  were  asked  to 
leave,  which  they  finally  did  after  hearing  the  ministers  vote 
that  slavery  was  not  a  sin  and  that  the  American  Union  con- 
templated "no  designs  of  hostility  in  respect  to  any  other 
institution."  The  abolitionists  knew  differently. 

Garrison  was  correct  in  ascribing  a  sectarian  spirit  to  the 


196  THE  LIBERATOR:  "WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

American  Union.  The  new  society  was  dominated  by  the 
Congregational  clergy  who  still  found  it  difficult  to  work 
harmoniously  with  their  more  enlightened  Unitarian  brethren. 
The  whole  scheme  might  have  collapsed  had  it  not  been 
for  the  arrival  from  New  York  of  Arthur  Tappan,  bent  on 
using  the  American  Union  to  bring  Garrison  to  reason.  After 
meetings  with  both  parties  Tappan  wrote  an  open  letter  to 
the  Boston  Recorder  giving  his  blessing  to  the  American 
Union  but  defending  Garrison  from  the  charge  of  atheism. 
No  man,  he  pointed  out,  could  be  blind  to  Garrison's  obvious 
faults,  chief  among  which  was  "the  severe  and  denunciatory 
language  with  which  he  often  assails  his  opponents  and 
repels  their  attacks,"  but  these  shortcomings  need  not  ob- 
scure his  "noble  and  disinterested  efforts."22  There  was  room 
in  the  movement  for  all  good  men:  those  who  found  it  im- 
possible to  work  with  Garrison  should  strike  out  for  them- 
selves. 

Lewis  Tappan,  in  whom  the  milk  of  human  kindness  was 
slowly  curdling,  sensed  the  true  purpose  of  the  American 
Union  from  the  beginning.  He  disapproved  of  Arthur's  indul- 
gent view  of  the  new  society  and  did  not  hesitate  to  assure 
Garrison  of  his  continued  support.  "I  have  attentively  read 
your  remarks  on  the  proceedings  of  the  late  convention  in 
Boston,"  he  wrote  to  Garrison,  "to  form  what  I  should  call 
AN  ANTI-GARRISON  SOCIETY,  and,  for  one,  I  heartily  approve 
them.  They  will  meet  with  a  hearty  response  from  every 
true  hearted  emancipationist  in  the  land.  The  times  require 
decision  and  courage,  and  I  feel  thankful  to  God  for  your 
steadfastness  at  the  post  which  providence  has  assigned  you. 
Go  on  and  prosper,  thou  friend  of  the  oppressed!  The  Lord 
will  be  thy  shield  and  buckler."23  Without  waiting  for  per- 
mission Garrison  printed  the  letter,  while  Lewis  quickly  won 
back  his  brother's  support  for  the  Liberator.  Arthur  with- 


MOBS   AND   MARTYRS  197 

drew  to  a  position  of  benevolent  neutrality  and  meanwhile 
resumed  his  aid  to  the  Garrison  party.  Back  in  favor  with 
the  president  of  the  national  society,  Garrison  opened  fire 
on  the  American  Union,  which  under  his  heavy  salvos  slowly 
sank  into  oblivion.  The  first  threat  to  his  hegemony  in  New 
England  had  ended. 

The  appearance  of  the  American  Union  shattered  Garri- 
son's dream  of  leading  a  united  church  into  the  anti-slavery 
camp.  He  had  always  believed  that  abolition  should  be  the 
work  of  the  American  churches,  but  here  in  Boston,  the 
birthplace  of  American  Protestantism,  religious  leaders  were 
transgressing  and  lying  against  the  Lord  by  refusing  to  de- 
nounce slavery.  American  Christianity  had  become  a  pillar 
of  slavery,  and  ministers  no  longer  preached  the  true  word 
of  God.  From  now  on  the  drift  of  his  thought  toward  anti- 
clericalism  was  unmistakable  as  his  obsession  with  conscience 
scattered  before  it  questions  of  doctrine  and  polity.  "To 
learn  my  duty,"  he  warned  his  readers,  "I  will  not  consult  any 
other  statute-book  than  THE  BIBLE:  and  whatever  requirement 
of  man  I  believe  is  opposed  to  the  spirit  of  the  gospel,  I  will 
at  all  hazards  disobey."24  Moral  right,  he  declared,  was  ever 
paramount  to  legal  right  and  should  freely  interrogate  it.  With 
George  Thompson  as  his  chief  examiner  he  now  took  up  the 
work  of  moral  interrogation  with  renewed  vigor. 

At  Freedom's  Cottage  the  two  men  planned  Thompson's 
itinerary  for  the  summer  of  1835,  beginning  with  a  tour 
of  Maine  and  New  Hampshire.  Thompson  found  it  rough 
going.  In  Augusta  a  mob  smashed  the  windows  of  his  hotel 
room  and  a  committee  of  leading  citizens  urged  his  hasty 
departure.  In  Concord  his  meeting  with  the  ladies'  auxiliary 
ended  precipitately  in  a  shower  of  brickbats;  and  in  Lowell 
a  hail  of  refuse  stopped  the  proceedings.  Everywhere  he 
went  he  was  denounced  as  an  itinerant  "stirrer-up  of  strife" 


1^8  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

and  an  agent  of  "foreign  interference."  A  man  less  sure  of 
himself  might  well  have  admitted  the  unpalatable  truth  that 
Americans  simply  did  not  take  to  George  Thompson,  but 
Garrison,  convinced  of  his  visitor's  curative  powers,  simply 
doubled  the  dosage.  The  disastrous  tour  dragged  through  the 
hot  summer. 

Elsewhere  the  national  society  was  stepping  up  its  offen- 
sive. In  June  the  Executive  Committee  hit  upon  a  new 
scheme  for  printing  and  distributing  thousands  of  pamphlets 
and  tracts.  Then  a  circular  went  out  to  all  its  members 
calling  for  thirty  thousand  dollars  to  finance  new  periodicals 
and  pay  new  agents.  Until  now  most  Northerners  had  looked 
upon  the  society  as  a  collection  of  cranks  and  misguided 
meddlers  well  supplied  with  visions  but  lacking  the  common 
sense  to  effect  any  of  their  wild  schemes.  Two  years  had  seen 
this  unconcern  give  way  to  a  real  anxiety;  and  the  announce- 
ment of  a  program  designed  to  bring  the  anti-slavery  message 
into  every  town  and  hamlet  in  the  country  roused  the 
Northern  public  to  action.  Already  there  were  mobs  and 
riots  aimed  at  the  innocent  free  Negro.  In  Philadelphia  gangs 
of  toughs  roamed  the  streets  destroying  Negro  property 
and  threatening  the  victims.  In  Utica  rioters  drove  the  dele- 
gates to  a  state  anti-slavery  convention  out  of  town  under 
a  shower  of  mud  and  stones,  and  as  soon  as  they  were  gone 
wrecked  the  offices  of  the  city's  abolitionist  newspaper.  In 
Hartford  there  were  persistent  rumors  that  a  Negro  church 
had  been  burned  to  the  ground  with  the  congregation  locked 
inside  it.  Garrison  thought  he  saw  in  these  riots  an  "infallible 
sign"  that  Satan's  time  was  short,  "When  tyrants  increase 
the  weight  of  the  bondsmen's  fetters,  and  threatens  [sic] 
extermination  to  all  who  shall  dare  question  their  rights 
...  it  is  pretty  certain  that  they  deem  the  hour  of  emanci- 
pation to  be  close  at  hand."25  His  followers  who  studied  the 


MOBS  AND  MARTYRS  199 

explosive  situation  right  in  Boston  more  carefully  did  not 
share  his  optimism. 

In  July  he  sailed  for  Nova  Scotia  and  a  month's  rest, 
leaving  Thompson  in  the  capable  hands  of  Samuel  May.  He 
returned  to  find  the  city  ablaze  with  anti-abolitionism. 
Negroes  on  "Nigger  Hill"  were  being  harassed  by  bands  of 
thugs  who  turned  out  nightly  to  loot  their  homes  and  drive 
them  off  the  street.  The  press  was  busy  whipping  up  hatred 
for  Thompson  as  the  "paid  agent"  of  the  enemies  of  "republi- 
can institutions."  In  August,,  John  Quincy  Adams,  back  home 
between  sessions  of  Congress,  noted  that  a  public  meeting 
to  silence  the  abolitionists  was  being  planned  and  remarked 
acidly  that  "the  disease  is  deeper  than  can  be  healed  by  town 
meeting  resolutions."  On  Friday  afternoon,  August  21,  Faneuil 
Hall  was  filled  to  capacity  by  Bostonians  who  came  to  hear 
Harrison  Gray  Otis  argue  the  need  to  keep  the  abolitionists 
from  scattering  firebrands,  arrows,  and  death. 

Garrison  considered  attending  the  Faneuil  Hall  meeting  to 
refute  the  charges  against  him,  but  at  the  last  minute  he  was 
dissuaded  from  making  what  could  only  have  been  a  danger- 
ous gesture.  Instead  he  took  recourse  to  the  columns  of  the 
Liberator.  Linking  the  Faneuil  Hall  demonstration  with  the 
"popular  fury"  in  the  South,  he  lashed  out  at  the  "utter 
degeneracy'7  of  Boston.  How,  he  asked,  had  the  abolitionists 
behaved"  under  such  provocation?  "Have  they,  in  a  single 
instance,  returned  evil  for  evil?  Who  among  them  all,  has 
given  blow  for  blow?  or  who  has  girded  on  his  sword,  or 
who  has  recommended  an  appeal  to  force? m®  He  identified 
the  source  of  this  new  prescriptive  spirit  as  the  "sinful  preju- 
dices in  the  high  and  educated  classes."  "Those  classes  do  not 
compctse  the  active  portion  of  the  mobs,  but  they  do  the  pas- 
sive, and  thai  poition  is  the  most  numerous,  and  m  our  opinion 
the  most:  to  blame."21  For  tke  time  being,  however,  k  seemed 


200  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

better  not  to  offer  further  provocation.  Leaving  his  brother- 
in-law  Henry  Benson  in  charge  of  the  paper,  he  spent 
September  at  the  Benson  farm  in  Brooklyn,  partly  to  regain 
his  health,  which  had  broken  down  under  the  strain  of 
Thompson's  visit,  and  partly  to  avoid  trouble.  "There  is  yet 
too  much  fever,  and  too  little  rationality,  in  the  public 
mind  .  .  ."  he  wrote  to  Benson,  "for  .  .  .  any  of  us  to  make 
addresses  to  the  patient  without  having  him  attempt  to  knock 
us  down.  Write  —  print  —  distribute  —  this  we  may  do  with 
profit  to  our  cause."28  If  he  thought  that  the  storm  had 
blown  over,  he  was  quickly  disillusioned  on  his  return  to  the 
city.  A  few  days  earlier  enterprising  citizens  had  erected  a 
gallows  in  front  of  his  house  and  were  now  eagerly  awaiting 
his  arrival.  Then  they  learned  of  a  meeting  of  the  Boston 
Female  Anti-Slavery  Society  scheduled  in  Julien  Hall  at 
which  George  Thompson  would  speak. 

Two  facts  are  clear  concerning  the  "Garrison  mob"  of 
October  21,  1835:  it  was  instigated  by  the  Boston  press,  and 
Garrison  was  not  its  intended  victim.  All  during  the  summer 
the  Boston  Atlas  and  the  Gazette  had  called  for  resistance  to 
the  "impudent  bullying"  of  George  Thompson,  "not  from 
the  rabble,  but  from  men  of  property  and  standing,  who 
have  a  large  stake  in  the  community."  A  week  before  the 
riot  Buckingham's  Courier,  which  had  defended  Garrison  in 
the  past,  joined  the  standing  order  in  denouncing  the  English- 
man as  a  "vagabond"  and  a  "scoundrel"  hired  by  the  aboli- 
tionists to  spread  race  hatred.  On  October  14  the  anniversary 
meeting  of  the  ladies'  society  was  postponed  for  want  of  a 
hall,  the  proprietors  of  Julien  Hall  having  withdrawn  their 
permission.  It  took  more  than  the  timidity  of  property  owners 
to  stop  Boston's  intrepid  feminists,  led  by  Mary  Parker, 
Theodore's  iron-willed  sister.  They  promptly  arranged  an- 


MOBS  AND  MARTYRS  2OI 

other  meeting  for  the  twenty-first  at  the  society's  rooms  at 
46  Washington  Street. 

By  noon  of  that  day  five  hundred  handbills  fresh  from 
the  printer's  were  circulating  in  State  Street  and  in  the 
hotels  and  business  houses  of  the  city. 

THOMPSON 
THE  ABOLITIONIST! ! ! ! 

That  infamous  foreign  scoundrel  THOMPSON  will 
hold  forth  this  afternoon,  at  the  Liberator  Office, 
No.  48  Washington  Street.  The  present  is  a  fair 
opportunity  for  the  friends  of  the  Union  to  snake 
Thompson  out!  It  will  be  a  contest  between  the 
Abolitionists  and  the  friends  of  the  Union.  A  purse 
of  $100  has  been  raised  by  a  number  of  patriotic 
citizens  to  reward  the  individual  who  shall  first  lay 
violent  hands  on  Thompson,  so  that  he  may  be 
brought  to  the  tar-kettle  before  dark.  Friends  of 
the  Union,  be  vigilant! 

Boston,  Wednesday,  12  o'clock. 

The  handbill  had  been  designed  that  morning  at  the  office 
of  the  Gazette  by  two  merchants,  Isaac  Stevens  and  Isaac 
Means,  both  of  whom  had  signed  the  call  for  the  Faneuil 
Hall  meeting.  To  make  sure  of  a  mob  sufficient  for  their 
purposes  they  sent  one  hundred  of  the  handbills  to  the  North 
End,  where  Irish  mechanics  could  be  counted  on  to  treat 
the  Englishman  as  fair  game. 

Promptly  at  two-thirty  Garrison  arrived  at  the  Washington 
Street  office,  where  he  discovered  over  a  hundred  men  mill- 
ing about  outside  the  building  and  an  equal  number  lining 
the  stairway  to  the  hall  on  the  third  floor.  Pushing  his  way 
through  the  crowd,  which  offered  threats  but  no  violence,  he 
took  his  seat  with  the  twenty-five  ladies  who  comprised  the 


2O2  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  UjQYD  GARRISON 

Boston  Female  Anti-Slavery  Society.  When  he  saw  that  his 
visitors  showed  no  disposition  to  leave,  he  tried  a  bit  of 
sarcasm.  "If  gentlemen,  any  of  you  are  ladies  — in  disguise 
—  why,  only  apprise  me  of  the  fact,  give  me  your  name, 
and  I  will  introduce  you  to  the  rest  of  your  sex,  and  you 
can  take  seats  among  them  accordingly."  This  shaft  wounded 
only  the  sensibilities  of  the  Boston  matrons  — the  crowd 
pressed  forward  calling  for  Thompson.  Suddenly  realizing 
that  as  the  only  man  at  the  meeting  (Thompson  never  showed 
up)  he  might  well  be  chosen  to  fill  the  speaker's  shoes,  he 
retired  behind  the  partition  which  separated  the  hall  from 
the  offices.  Here  he  found  Charles  C.  Burleigh,  die  Connecti- 
cut abolitionist  and  friend  of  Prudence  Crandall,  and  together 
they  sat  calmly  waiting  for  the  mob  to  disperse.  Meanwhile 
the  ladies  opened  their  meeting  with  a  prayer. 

Suddenly  Mayor  Theodore  Lyman  arrived,  posted  a  hand- 
ful of  officers  in  the  doorway,  and  mounted  the  stairs.  Once 
inside  the  hall  filled  with  shouting  men,  he  tried  to  tell 
them  that  Thompson  was  not  even  in  the  city,  but  matters 
had  already  gone  too  far.  The  opening  prayer  was  punctuated 
by  fists  banging  on  the  door  of  the  partition  behind  which 
Garrison  sat  writing  an  account  of  the  "awful,  sublime,  and 
soul  thrilling  scene"  which  he  could  not  see.  Mayor  Lyman 
turned  to  the  members:  "Go  home,  ladies,"  he  pleaded,  "go 
home," 

PRESIDENT  [Miss  Parker] :  What  renders  it  necessary 

we  should  go  home? 
MR.  LYMAN;  I  am  the  mayor  of  the  city,  and  I 

cannot  now  explain;  but  will  call  on  you  this 

evening. 
PRESIDENT:  If  the  ladies  will  be  seated,  we  will  take 

the  sense  of  the  meeting. 
MR.  LYMAN:  Don't  stop,  ladies,  go  home. 


MOBS  AKD  MARTYRS 


The  sense  of  the  meeting  seemed  to  be  that  it  would  be 
wise  to  take  the  mayor's  advice.  The  meeting  was  adpurned, 
and  led  by  their  doughty  president,  the  ladies  filed  out  "amid 
manifestations  of  revengeful  brutaKty." 

With  the  women  gone  and  Thompson  obviously  nowhere 
on  the  premises,  the  mob  began  to  shout  for  Garrison  and 
meanwhile  amused  itself  by  tearing  down  the  anti-slavery  sign 
outside*  As  Burleigh  strolled  nonchalantly  out  of  the  office 
Lyman  rushed  in  and  ordered  Garrison  to  leave  by  a  back 
window  which  opened  into  a  narrow  lane.  While  the  mob 
blockaded  the  front  entrance,  Garrison  slipped  out  of  the 
window,,  across  the  narrow  way  and  into  a  carpenter  shop 
where  he  climbed  into  the  loft  and  hid  behind  a  pile  of 
lumber.  But  he  had  been  spotted.  Shouting  "Lynch  him!"  and 
"Out  with  him!"  the  crowd  poured  into  the  shop  and  up  the 
ladder.  "On  seeing  me,"  Garrison  recalled,  "three  or  four 
of  the  rioters,  uttering  a  yell,  furiously  dragged  me  to  the 
window,  with  the  intention  of  hurling  me  from  that  height 
to  the  ground;  but  one  of  them  relented  and  said  —  'Don't 
let  us  kill  him  outright.'  So  they  drew  me  back,  and  coiled  a 
rope  about  my  body  —  probably  to  drag  me  through  the 
streets."  He  made  the  best  of  his  ridiculous  posture.  Bowing 
konicaJHy  from  the  loft  to  the  men  below,  he  begged  their 
indulgence  until  he  could  back  down  the  ladder.  Once  ou  the 
ground  he  was  seized  by  three  pairs  of  friendly  arms  and 
hustled  out  into  State  Street  and  up  to  the  rear  of  the  City 
Hall. 

Here  trouble  began.  Whatever  its  intentions  up  to  this 
point  —  Garrison  believed  that  he  was  headed  for  the  Com- 
mon  and  a  coat  of  tar  —  the  mob  realized  that  once  inside 
City  Hall  he  was  safe.  In  a  rush  on  the  doorway  the  rioters 
tried  to  snatch  him  and  were  beaten  back  by  the  police  only 
after  they  had  ripped  the  dothes  off  his  back.  Garrison  re- 


204  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

mained  serene  throughout,  perhaps  because  he  had  lost  his 
glasses  and  could  not  see  three  feet  in  front  of  him.  Later 
he  told  friends  that  he  felt  "perfectly  calm,  nay  very  happy.  . .  . 
It  seemed  to  me  that  it  was  indeed  a  blessed  privilege  to 
suffer  in  the  cause  of  Christ."  Mayor  Lyman  and  his  deputies, 
less  sure  of  divine  interposition  than  their  captive,  decided 
to  whisk  him  off  to  the  Leverett  Street  jail  and  lock  him  up 
for  safekeeping  on  the  trumped-up  charge  of  disturbing  the 
peace.  Once  again  he  was  bustled  out  into  the  street,  this 
time  to  a  waiting  carriage.  While  the  police  officers  beat  off 
attackers,  the  driver  plied  his  whip  and  the  hack  careened 
out  of  State  Street  and  into  Bowdoin  Square  headed  for  the 
jail.  Within  an  hour  the  mob  had  disappeared. 

Garrison  spent  the  evening  behind  bars  in  a  suit  of  bor- 
rowed clothes  chatting  with  the  jailer  and  receiving  his 
friends.  In  the  morning  he  re-enacted  the  ritual  of  the  jail 
by  inscribing  on  the  walls  of  the  cell  a  message  to  posterity. 
That  afternoon  he  was  released  on  condition  that  he  leave 
the  city.  The  same  evening,  accompanied  by  Helen,  he  left 
for  Brooklyn. 

From  the  Benson  farm  he  sent  orders  to  Burleigh  and 
Knapp  to  publish  accounts  of  the  riot,  and  within  a  few  days 
his  own  version  appeared.  When  the  Boston  papers  obliged 
by  blaming  the  abolitionists  for  the  outburst,  charges  and 
countercharges  filled  the  press  for  weeks  to  come.  Fanned 
by  regular  blasts  from  the  Liberator,  the  affair  smoldered 
throughout  the  winter. 

Among  his  friends  and  followers  Garrison's  stock  rose  to 
new  heights.  They  marveled  at  his  courage.  "Joy  to  thee, 
Son  of  Trial!"  exclaimed  an  unidentified  admirer  whose 
sonnet  graced  the  columns  of  the  Liberator.  Knapp  thanked 
God  for  his  partner's  preservation  "from  the  fury  of  a  mis- 
guided and  ferocious  mob."  Samuel  Sewall  congratulated 


MOBS  AND  MARTYRS 


him  on  his  escape,  but  he  added  that  he  did  not  believe 
the  mob  at  any  time  meant  to  murder  him.  Maria  Chapman 
thought  otherwise.  One  of  the  doughty  Weston  sisters,  she 
had  married  the  abolitionist  merchant  Henry  Chapman  and 
become  the  guiding  spirit  of  the  Boston  Female  Anti-Slavery 
Society.  It  was  she  who  led  her  companions  "each  with  a 
colored  friend"  through  the  mob  to  her  home.  Now  she 
praised  Garrison  for  his  coolness  and  bravery  in  the  face 
of  peril.  But  there  were  also  rumors  of  his  cowardice,  of  his 
begging  for  mercy  on  his  knees,  and  of  his  precipitate  flight 
from  the  city.  Harriet  Martineau,  visiting  Boston  at  this 
time  and  meeting  Garrison  on  his  return,  thought  she  de- 
tected a  "want  of  manliness"  and  an  "excessive  agitation" 
in  him.  By  this  time  Garrison,  who  was  enjoying  his  martyr- 
dom, no  doubt  had  embellished  the  facts  to  improve  the 
drama.  Burleigh,  his  companion  for  all  but  a  few  minutes  of 
that  afternoon,  testified  to  his  complete  composure;  and 
Mayor  Lyman  remembered  that  he  had  greeted  him  with  a 
smile.  However  exaggerated  his  own  accounts  of  behavior 
may  have  been,  there  is  no  reason  to  doubt  that  he  followed 
his  nonresistance  precepts  by  refusing  to  escape  or  defend 
himself.29 

It  was  Harriet  Martineau  who  coined  the  phrase  "Martyr 
Age"  to  describe  Garrison's  treatment  by  the  Boston  mob. 
He  thought  the  phrase  "reign  of  terror"  more  appropriate. 
"A  cloud  of  infamy  — a  thunder-cloud  of  heaven's  venge- 
ance—a cloud  of  darkness  and  terror,  covers  the  nation 
like  a  mighty  pall,"  he  wrote  three  weeks  after  the  affair. 
"Rebellious,  ungrateful  and  blood-thirsty  land!  how  art 
thou  fallen  even  to  the  lowest  depths  of  degradation  and 
sin."30  It  remained  for  a  later  generation  to  put  the  Boston 
mob  in  proper  perspective.  John  Jay  Chapman  suggested  the 
need  for  distinguishing  between  a  "reign  of  terror"  and 


206  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

"persecution."  "The  unpleasantnesses  and  injustices  to  which 
the  Abolitionists  were  subjected,"  Chapman  wrote,  "never 
justified  a  literal  application  of  the  terms  'martyr/  ^reign 
of  terror/  etc.;  but  the  word  'persecution'  is  most  aptly  used 
to  describe  their  sufferings,  if  we  reflect  that  there  are  perse- 
cutions which  do  not  result  in  death."31  Prudence  Crandall's 
discomfort  at  the  hands  of  the  people  of  Canterbury  hardly 
qualified  her  as  a  martyr,  nor  were  Birney's  experiences  in 
Cincinnati  or  Weld's  treatment  in  the  villages  of  Ohio  part 
of  a  concerted  reign  of  terror.  The  buffeting  Garrison  re- 
ceived from  Irish  workmen  in  State  Street  could  hardly 
compare  with  Elijah  Lovejoy's  tragic  defense  of  his  press 
two  years  later  in  Alton,  Illinois.  But  democratic  society 
does  not  always  resort  to  the  coil  of  rope  and  the  flaming 
cross  to  discourage  unpopular  opinions.  Often  a  few  well- 
aimed  stones  or  a  handful  of  efficient  hecklers  are  more  than 
enough.  Almost  all  of  the  anti-abolitionist  episodes  had  their 
antic  aspects  and  their  lunatic  participants.  Beneath  the  sur- 
face comedy,  however,  there  lay  in  the  silent  hostility  of  the 
many  and  the  compulsive  hates  of  the  few  a  major  threat 
to  free  institutions.  The  Garrison  mob  was  not  simply  a  col- 
lection of  pranksters;  it  was  an  irrational  force  capable  of 
destroying  democracy.  It  was  the  abolitionists'  success  in 
touching  the  consciences  of  their  fellow  citizens  that  ulti- 
mately saved  them. 

Hie  Garrison  mob  brought  about  such  an  awakening  of 
conscience  in  Boston.  "Happily  one  point  seems  already  to 
be  gaining  universal  assent,"  the  merchant  Francis  Jackson 
wrote  to  Samuel  May  in  November,  1835,  "that  slavery 
cannot  long  survive  free  discussion.  ...  As  slavery  cannot 
exist  with  free  discussion  —  so  neither  can  liberty  breathe 
without  it.  Losing  this,  we  too  shall  be  no  longer  free  men 
indeed,  but  little  if  at  all  superior  to  the  millions  we  now 


MOBS  A3*D  MARTYRS  2OJ 

seek  to  emancipate."  Other  men  of  property  and  standing 
in  Boston  were  coming  to  the  same  conclusion.  They  had  been 
made  to  see  that  however  obstinate  and  shortsighted  the 
abolitionists  might  be,  their  cause  was  inextricably  woven 
into  the  fabric  of  free  society.  From  his  new  law  office  in 
Court  Street,  Wendell  Phillips,  the  young  Boston  patrician, 
looked  down  on  the  mob  dragging  Garrison  through  the 
streets  and  resolved  then  and  there  to  join  his  cause.  The 
twenty-four-year-old  Phillips  was  the  wealthy  son  of  Bos- 
ton's first  mayor  and  a  graduate  of  Harvard,  where  he  had 
hobnobbed  with  the  sons  of  Southern  planters  and  joined 
all  the  best  clubs.  Tall,  slim,  with  a  ruddy  complexion, 
Grecian  features  and  wavy  blond  hair  combed  back  over  his 
high  forehead,  he  was  the  picture  of  studied  negligence, 
Boston's  ideal  of  the  aristocrat.  At  Harvard  he  had  studied 
rhetoric  with  the  famed  Edward  Channing,  who  taught  him 
to  hate  purple  prose  and  rely  on  the  natural  power  of  hs 
magnificent  voice  and  muscular  mind.  Along  with  money 
Phillips  had  inherited  a  strong  social  conscience,  and  it  was 
this  combination  of  wealth  and  moral  commitment  that 
drove  him  to  play  the  patrician  agitator,  the  reformer  who 
could  afford  to  throw  himself  into  an  unpopular  cause  and 
casually  dismiss  his  notoriety.  His  acquisition  was  a  godsend 
to  Garrison.  Serving  his  chief  with  loyalty  and  devotion  until 
the  very  outbreak  of  war,  he  brought  with  him  an  energy 
and  drive,  a  talent  for  agitation,  and  a  voice  that  made  him 
the  greatest  of  the  anti-slavery  orators. 

Henry  Bowditch  and  George  B.  Emerson,  sons  of  old 
families  and  beneficiaries  of  Boston's  Golden  Age,  came 
over  to  anti-slavery.  Even  William  Ellery  Channing,  finally 
convinced  that  he  should  speak  out,  hurried  his  Thoughts  on 
Slavery  into  print.  A  plain  Connecticut  farmer,  Henry  C. 
Wright,  who  became  Garrison's  most  devoted  disciple,  made 


2O8  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

his  anti-slavery  debut  in  a  series  of  letters  to  the  Liberator 
indicting  the  city  officials  and  the  business  community. 
Orson  Murray  in  Vermont  and  Nathaniel  Rogers  in  New 
Hampshire  promised  to  spread  immediate  emancipation  in 
their  states. 

These  new  men  represented  different  types  of  the  New 
England  character  —  the  cultured  Bostonian  of  old  family 
whose  conscience  overthrew  his  sense  of  class,  and  the  in- 
dependent son  of  yeoman  stock  whose  militant  Protestantism 
drove  him  to  abolition  as  the  first  step  in  the  millennial  ex- 
periment. But  not  even  Garrison  could  unite  Boston  and  the 
backwoods.  The  events  of  the  next  few  years  disclosed 
a  rift  in  Garrisonism  which  piety  and  unction  could  not 
heal. 

All  this  lay  in  the  future.  From  the  aftermath  of  the 
Boston  riot  there  emerged  a  new  attitude  in  New  England 
which  eventually  created  a  Northern  mind.  Although  there 
would  be  no  more  Garrison  mobs,  the  conviction  that  slavery 
threatened  democracy  was  not  widely  held  in  1835,  and  in 
this  sense  Garrison's  work  was  just  beginning.  But  now  he 
had  new  recruits  who  realized  better  than  he  that  the  anti- 
slavery  cause  transcended  the  personality  of  its  leader. 


10 
"Our  Doom  as  a  Nation  Is  Sealed" 


IN  THE  QUIET  OF  the  Benson  farmhouse,  where  he  and  his 
wife  retired  after  his  encounter  with  the  Boston  mob, 
Garrison  took  time  to  reflect  on  the  progress  of  moral  reform. 
"Much  as  my  mind  is  absorbed  in  the  anti-slavery  cause," 
he  confessed  to  his  sister-in-law  Anna,  "there  are  other  great 
subjects  that  frequently  occupy  my  thoughts,  upon  which 
much  light  remains  to  be  thrown,  and  which  are  of  the 
utmost  importance  to  the  temporal  and  eternal  welfare 
of  man."1  The  peace  cause,  the  status  of  women,  the  Sab- 
bath question,  temperance,  home  missions  —  all  of  these  proj- 
ects he  had  flung  aside  for  the  hectic  work  of  organizing 
abolition  in  New  England.  It  was  time  to  pick  up  the  loose 
threads  once  more  in  the  hope  of  making  a  pattern  of  Chris- 
tian reform.  Of  all  his  interests  the  nonresistance  cause  seemed 
most  important  now.  His  pacifist  beliefs  had  been  on  trial 
that  day  in  October  as  he  stumbled  along  State  Street  towed 
by  the  mob.  By  refusing  to  fight  back  he  had  tested  his 
principles,  found  them  sound,  and  could  recommend  them 
now  as  a  model  of  Christian  behavior.  "I  am  more  and  more 
convinced,"  he  told  Anna  Benson,  "that  it  is  the  duty  of  the 
followers  of  Christ  to  suffer  themselves  to  be  defrauded, 
calumniated,  and  barbarously  treated,  without  resorting  either 
to  their  own  physical  energies,  or  to  the  force  of  human  law, 


210  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

for  restitution  and  punishment."  His  clash  with  Boston's 
outraged  sensibilities  had  put  a  new  edge  on  his  old  hunger 
for  holiness.  Admittedly,  slavery  was  only  part  of  the  problem 
of  human  evil  — why  not  cure  all  sin  by  following  the  ex- 
ample of  Christ?  Peace  and  perfection  —  gospel  truths  and 
God's  prescription  for  the  sins  of  the  world.  A  radical  cure, 
no  doubt,  but  certain.  As  he  began  collecting  his  anti- 
slavery  forces  scattered  by  the  October  riot,  the  image  of  the 
Master  forgiving  sinful  man  and  offering  peace  remained 
deeply  etched  in  his  mind. 

He  had  been  reluctant  to  leave  the  city  but  there  was  no 
other  choice.  The  house  in  Brighton  Street,  which  he  took 
in  order  to  be  nearer  his  office,  was  proving  far  more  costly 
than  Freedom's  Cottage.  Then,  too,  his  health  had  suffered 
from  irregular  hours  and  jangled  nerves,  and  Helen  con- 
stantly worried  about  his  safety  in  the  streets.  She  was  ex- 
pecting her  first  child  —  a  son  born  in  February,  1836,  whom 
they  named  George  Thompson  Garrison.  Thompson  himself 
was  gone,  smuggled  out  of  the  city  on  the  Saint  John  packet. 
The  Liberator  undoubtedly  would  have  to  be  suspended  un- 
less Knapp  worked  a  miracle,  Although  the  mob  had  not 
ventured  near  the  office,  the  owners  of  Merchants  Hall, 
unwilling  to  oifer  provocation,  had  ordered  Knapp  to  clear 
out.  Knapp  and  Burleigh  withdrew,  taking  with  them  all  of 
their  stock  and  what  little  money  there  was,  but  not  before 
their  creditors,  sensing  the  Liberator's  end  had  come,  flocked 
in. 

Knapp  managed  to  pay  the  debts,  but  an  audit  revealed  a 
hopeless  tangle  in  the  accounts.  The  financial  snarl  caused 
raised  eyebrows  among  some  members  of  the  society  who 
undertook  to  reprimand  Garrison  for  his  laxity.  "I  am  in- 
clined to  think,'3  he  complained  in  return,  "that  our  friends, 
wholly  ignorant  as  they  are,  generally  respecting  the  losses 


"OUR  DOOM  AS  A  NATION  IS  SEALED"  211 

and  crosses  of  every  newspaper  concern,  more  or  less,  hardly 
do  us  justice  as  to  our  past  management.  I  admit  that  we 
have  not  been  methodical  or  sharp  in  keeping  our  accounts. 
.  .  .  We  have  not  squandered  or  misapplied,  but,  on  the 
contrary,  as  a  whole,  been  careful  of  our  means/'2  Still,  it 
was  with  relief  that  he  learned  of  the  decision  to  torn  the 
financial  responsibility  for  the  paper  over  to  Knapp  and 
leave  him  free  to  manage  the  editorial  work  on  a  salary  sup- 
plied by  Loring  and  Sewall.  He  was  happy  to  return  to  the 
more  congenial  task  of  baiting  moderate  abolitionists. 

In  November,  1835,  William  Ellery  Channing's  Slavery 
appeared  in  time  to  underscore  the  reaction  of  Bostonians  to 
militant  abolitionism,  for  Channing  spoke  with  the  authority 
of  a  veteran  opponent  of  slavery.  At  the  time  of  Lundy's 
first  visit  to  Boston  in  1828  he  was  already  criticizing  slavery 
while  at  the  same  time  emphasizing  the  dangers  of  alienating 
the  slaveholders.  "It  seems  to  me,"  he  wrote  to  Daniel  Web- 
ster in  that  year,  uthat,  before  moving  in  this  matter,  we 
ought  to  say  to  them  distinctly,  We  consider  slavery  as 
your  calamity,  not  your  crime,  and  we  will  share  with  you 
the  burden  of  putting  an  end  to  it.' "  Ten  years  had  scarcely 
altered  this  view.  Although  he  subscribed  to  the  Liberator, 
he  had  never  approved  of  Garrison's  "showy,  noisy  mode  of 
action."  His  scholarly  habits  and  aristocratic  tastes  led  him 
to  prefer  the  language  of  reason  to  the  enthusiasm  of  agita- 
tors who  seemed  to  him  to  display  more  will  than  brains. 
The  Southern  counteroffensive  against  civil  liberties  height- 
ened his  disapproval  of  slaveowners  but  did  not  moderate  his 
opinion  of  the  abolitionists.  In  1835  he  told  a  friend  that 
were  he  to  publish  his  criticisms  of  slavery,  he  would  feel 
bound  not  only  to  defend  the  abolitionists'  rights  but  to  en- 
large on  what  he  deemed  their  errors. 

True  to  his  promise,  Channing  examined  the  positions  of 


212  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

slaveholders  and  abolitionists  in  his  essay  and  found  both  of 
them  wanting  in  common  sense  and  Christian  charity.  He 
began  by  establishing  "a  first,  fundamental  truth  — a  hu- 
man being  cannot  rightfully  be  held  and  used  as  property." 
From  this  principle  he  proceeded  to  other  natural  rights  — 
the  right  to  seek  knowledge,  to  better  one's  condition,  to  live 
as  a  member  of  a  community  under  the  equal  protection  of 
the  law  —  rights  violated  by  slavery.  The  initiative  in  remov- 
ing slavery,  however,  he  was  prepared  to  leave  to  the  slave- 
owner, who  alone  "has  the  intimate  knowledge  of  the  char- 
acter and  habits  of  the  slave."  Abolitionists  he  thought 
culpable  on  two  counts:  first,  for  hastily  adopting  the  un- 
workable formula  of  immediate  emancipation,  and  secondly, 
for  indulging  in  irrational  propaganda.  The  abolitionists,  he 
said,  had  done  great  mischief,  nor  was  this  mischief  to  be 
winked  at  simply  because  it  had  been  done  with  the  best  of 
intentions.  The  anti-slavery  party  had  fallen  into  the  common 
error  of  enthusiasts  of  taking  a  too  narrow  view  and  believing 
that  there  was  no  other  sin  than  the  one  they  denounced.  The 
cause  of  the  slave  required  zeal,  but  also  the  wisdom  of 
moderation.  The  abolitionists  had  only  stirred  "bitter  passions 
and  a  fierce  fanaticism"  which  shut  every  ear  and  every  heart 
against  the  voice  of  conscience. 

Many  of  the  abolitionists,  though  "grieved  at  some  few 
censures,"  as  Ellis  Gray  Loring  explained,  agreed  with  him 
in  pronouncing  "nineteen  twentieths"  of  Channing's  book 
sound  in  principle.  A  private  dissenter  was  John  Quincy 
Adams,  who  objected  to  the  "Jesuitical  complexion"  of  Chan- 
ning's arguments.  "The  wrong  or  crime  of  slavery  is  set  forth 
in  all  its  most  odious  colors,"  Adams  noted  in  his  diary,  "and 
then  the  explanation  disclaims  all  imputation  of  criminality 
upon  the  slaveholders."  Adams's  doubts  were  echoed  loudly 
in  the  Liberator,  which  dismissed  the  author  as  an  "Ishmael- 


OUR  DOOM  AS  A  NATION  IS  SEALED  ZI3 

ite"  and  the  pamphlet  as  "an  inflated,  inconsistent  and  slander- 
ous production.  ...  a  work  in  active  collision  with  itself."3 
After  appropriating  every  one  of  the  abolitionists'  arguments, 
Garrison  complained,  Channing  neutralized  their  force  by 
impugning  their  methods.  "He  modestly  asks  us  to  give  up 
our  watchword  Immediate  Emancipation,7  to  disband  our 
societies,  and  to  keep  our  publications  from  slaveholders." 
What  sort  of  give-and-take  nonsense  was  this?  The  source 
of  Channing's  heresy,  he  argued,  was  his  foolish  belief  that 
men  were  not  always  to  be  judged  by  their  acts  or  institutions. 
From  this  delusion  it  followed  that  slaveowners,  far  from 
being  the  miserable  sinners  they  appeared,  might  be  thought 
to  act  from  disinterested  motives  of  benevolence!  The  cardi- 
nal point  in  immediate  emancipation,  on  the  other  hand,  was 
its  identification  of  slavery  as  sin.  Sin  allowed  of  no  degrees; 
no  plan  was  needed  to  stop  sinning.  But  Channing  exonerated 
the  sinner  — he  divorced  the  sinner  from  his  sin.  His  work, 
therefore,  was  "utterly  destitute  of  any  redeeming,  reform- 
ing power,"  "calumnious,  contradictory  and  unsound."  Such 
timeservers  the  abolitionists  could  well  do  without. 

Garrison  recognized  Channing's  pamphlet  for  what  it  was 
—  a  threat  to  the  continued  control  of  the  pioneer  anti-slavery 
men.  As  a  liberal  Channing  was  unable  to  remain  silent  any 
longer;  as  a  moderate  he  was  unwilling  to  swallow  immediate 
abolition.  To  the  Garrisonians  his  moderation  seemed  at  best 
a  shuffling  policy.  "The  plain  English  of  the  whole  of  it," 
Amos  Phelps,  Garrison's  choleric  friend,  complained,  "is  this, 
that  he  —  and  he  is  but  one  of  a  hundred  such  —  can't  keep  still 
any  longer  on  the  subject,  but  cannot  bear  to  come  out  on 
the  subject  without  taking  sundry  exceptions,  just  to  'save 
their  skins'  from  the  kicks  we  have  had  to  take,  as  well  as  to 
seem  to  have  some  justification  for  their  long  and  guilty 
silence."4  The  real  issue,  however,  lay  deeper  than  Phelps 


21  A  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYI>  GARRISON" 

realized.  It  was  this:  Could  anti-slavery,  born  in  religious 
radicalism  and  nurtured  by  the  New  Theology  of  Beecher 
and  Finney,  withstand  an  accession  of  the  moderates?  Could 
it  relinquish  the  notion  of  slavery  as  a  sin  and  retain  its 
purity?  Could  the  abolitionist  sect  become  a  church  without 
endangering  its  principles,  let  the  unregenerate  in  without 
undermining  its  holy  work?  In  short,  could  abolition  survive 
success?  Garrison  thought  not.  Channing  cried  for  moderation 
and  understanding,  but  the  Declaration  of  Sentiments  of  the 
national  society  branded  slavery  a  sin.  Channing  proposed 
reflection  and  study,  and  meanwhile  the  slave  languished  in- 
chains. 

Channing  represented  a  way  of  life  that  was  hostile  to 
evangelicalism.  A  man  of  breeding,  he  was  first  and  last  an 
intellectual  who  distrusted  undirected  moral  energy.  He  be- 
lieved in  intelligence  and  leisure,  education,  good  taste  and 
social  poise  —  all  that  was  most  suspect  in  the  view  of  one  who 
had  been  raised  on  the  meager  intellectual  fare  of  the  evange- 
lists Moreover,  status  meant  more  to  Garrison  than  he  would 
admit.  The  reverse  side  of  his  myth  of  the  self-made  man 
dxowed  a  seme  of  social  inferiority  tinged  with  envy.  Al- 
though he  worked  closely  with  Boston  patricians  m  the  next 
few  years  — with  Wendell  Phillips,  Edmund  Quincy,  Ellis 
Gray  Loring,  Henry  Bowditch  — the  alliances  were  not  of 
his  making  and  the  teriBS  were  always  his  own.  Such  a  sur- 
render could  not  be  expected  from  Channing,  in  whose  work 
Garrison  sensed  a  note  of  social  superiority.  To  Channing  the 
Garrisonians  were  pious  fools  with  violent  impulses  which 
sprang  from  too  much  goodness  and  too  little  lucidity.  They 
were  men  who  chose  passion  instead  of  reason  which  was  die 
mark  of  a  true  morality.  Garrison,  on  the  other  hand,  viewed 
ChatTitirtg  as  the  potential  Judas  of  Christkn  reform,  a  timid 
dtc^-phiiosopher  half  afraid  of  his  awn  beliefs.  He  seemed 


"OUR  DOOM  AS  A  NATION  IS  SEALED"  215 

to  personify  in  his  passivity  the  dangers  of  too  much  think- 
ing. Of  the  two,  Channing  was  perhaps  the  better  judge  of 
character  and  certainly  the  more  magnanimous,  for  it  was 
he  who  made  the  first  tentative  gesture  of  friendship.  In 
March,  1836,  he  attended  the  hearings  of  the  Lunt  Com- 
mittee, which  had  been  appointed  by  the  Massachusetts  legis- 
lature to  investigate  the  need  for  a  gag  law  against  the  aboli- 
tionists, and  in  front  of  the  assembled  legislators  approached 
Garrison  and  took  his  hand.  Only  the  most  sanguine  of  the 
anti-slavery  men,  however,  believed  that  the  gesture  symbol- 
ized a  new  alliance  between  the  Garrisonians  and  an  emergent 
Northern  liberalism. 

The  Lunt  Committee  was  the  Massachusetts  answer  to 
Southern  clamor  against  the  abolitionists.  At  the  suggestion 
of  Governor  Everett  a  joint  committee  was  appointed  to 
consider  a  law  curtailing  anti-slavery  publications  and  meet- 
ings. Immediately  the  Massachusetts  Anti-Slavery  Society  (as 
the  old  New  England  Society  was  now  called)  requested  a 
hearing,  which  was  held  on  March  4,  1836.  At  their  briefing: 
sessions  the  society  chose  their  speakers  carefully.  The  bur- 
den of  their  case  was  carried  by  Loring,  Sewall,  and  Folleny 
the  first  two  respectable  if  not  brilliant  speakers,  the  last  an 
eloquent  and  persuasive  lecturer.  The  gallery  of  the  Chamber 
of  Representatives  was  packed  with  members  of  the  society 
and  anti-slavery  sympathizers.  All  went  well  at  the  first  hear- 
ing as  long  as  Loring  and  Sewall  held  the  floor,  but  when 
Follen  mounted  the  rostrum  and  unleashed  an  attack  on  the 
"mobocrats"  of  Boston  and  their  "blood-hounds"  who  made 
the  streets  of  Boston  unsafe,  Chairman  George  Lunt  lost  pa- 
tience. uStop  sir!  You  may  not  pursue  this  course  of  remark. 
It  is  insulting  to  the  committee  and  to  the  Legislature  which 
they  represent."  Forbidden  to  continue,  Follen  sat  down,  the 
abolitionists  flatly  refused  to  proceed,  and  the  hearing  was 


216  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

adjourned.  Next  day  the  society  drew  up  a  memorial  to  the 
legislature  complaining  of  the  uncivil  treatment  they  had  re- 
ceived and  demanding  a  free  and  open  hearing,  which  de- 
mand was  granted  and  a  second  hearing  arranged.  At  the 
new  hearing  the  Garrisonians  fared  little  better.  William 
Goodell,  Garrison's  waspish  companion  in  the  days  of  the 
National  Philanthropist,  arrived  from  New  York  and  was 
quickly  added  to  the  list  of  speakers.  Goodell  had  lost  none 
of  his  bite  since  he  and  Garrison,  seven  years  before,  had 
argued  the  merits  of  colonization;  and  he  immediately  took 
the  offensive  by  charging  the  committee  with  a  "foul  con- 
spiracy" to  subvert  American  freedom,  only  to  be  shut  off  by 
Lunt.  Unnerved  by  its  encounter  with  professional  agitators, 
the  committee  adjourned  never  to  meet  again.  Though  it 
censured  the  anti-slavery  party,  the  Lunt  Committee  failed 
to  recommend  measures  for  controlling  their  activities.  Free 
speech  had  won  a  notable  victory. 

Garrison's  remarks  at  the  hearing,  sandwiched  in  between 
the  heavy  arguments  of  Loring  and  Sewall,  went  almost  un- 
noticed in  the  ensuing  uproar.  Those  who  troubled  to  listen 
caught  a  new  note  of  sectionalism  in  his  reference  to  Ameri- 
can civil  liberties.  "Sir,  we  loudly  boast  of  our  free  country, 
and  of  the  Union  of  these  States.  Yet  I  have  no  country!  As 
a  New  Englander,  and  as  an  abolitionist,  I  am  excluded  by 
a  bloody  proscription  from  one-half  of  the  national  territory. 
.  .  .  Where  is  our  Union?  ,  .  .  The  right  of  free  and  safe 
locomotion  from  one  part  of  the  land  to  the  other  is  denied 
to  us,  except  at  the  peril  of  our  lives!  .  .  .  Therefore  it  is, 
I  assert,  that  the  Union  is  now  virtually  dissolved."6 

Virtually  but  not  actually.  Garrison  was  not  a  disunionist 
yet:  although  he  indulged  freely  in  propaganda  and  prophecy, 
he  was  not  ready  to  admit  that  the  Constitution  was  a  pro- 
slavery  document.  Like  most  of  the  abolitionists,  he  had 


"OUR  DOOM  AS  A  NATION  IS   SEALED"  217 

veered  with  the  winds  of  political  change,  first  denouncing 
the  Constitution  as  a  "heaven-daring  compact"  and  a  "corrupt 
bargain"  and  then  discovering  in  the  Congressional  power 
over  the  District  of  Columbia  a  beacon  for  Southern  states. 
Reluctantly  he  had  come  to  accept  the  best  abolitionist  opin- 
ion that  Congress  had  no  power  to  regulate  slavery  in  the 
states.  As  hope  for  effective  state  action  receded  in  the 
Thirties,  however,  and  the  abolitionists  began  to  doubt  their 
ability  to  convert  the  South,  they  recognized  the  need  for 
capturing  the  Constitution.  How  much  more  effective  their 
campaign  would  be,  how  much  more  important  the  petition 
and  the  vote,  if  they  could  prove  that  the  Constitution  was 
really  an  anti-slavery  document.  If  it  encompassed  the  aboli- 
tion of  slavery  throughout  the  Union,  then  abolitionists  in 
agitating  for  immediate  action  were  only  demanding  due 
enforcement  of  fundamental  law.  A  tidy  syllogism,  simple, 
unhistorical,  and  unrealistic.  It  was  a  measure  of  his  deep 
concern  with  politics  in  an  election  year  that  despite  his  pre- 
dictions of  disunion  Garrison  recognized  the  importance  of 
an  anti-slavery  interpretation  of  the  Constitution  and  tried  to 
achieve  one. 

The  task  he  set  himself —  that  of  producing  a  consistent 
reading  of  the  Constitution  —  was  beyond  his  powers,  for  it 
required  the  kind  of  reasoned  historical  method  which  he  had 
always  disparaged.  In  the  next  few  years  other  abolitionists, 
better  equipped  and  more  persevering,  worked  out  dozens  of 
theories  of  the  unconstitutionality  of  slavery,  all  of  them  in- 
genious, none  of  them  convincing.  In  1836,  however,  Garri- 
son was  pioneering  in  a  juridical  wilderness  with  no  compass 
to  guide  him.  That  he  soon  lost  his  bearings  is  hardly  as  sur- 
prising as  that  he  should  have  attempted  the  discovery  at  all. 

He  found  his  clue  to  the  anti-slavery  character  of  the 
Constitution  in  the  preamble,  which,  he  announced,  "pre- 


218  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

supposes  oppression  and  slavery,  in  any  and  every  form, 
wholly  unwarrantable,  and  consequently  is  a  warrant  for  a 
general  emancipation  of  the  slaves."  Emancipation  as  implied 
in  the  preamble  ought  to  be  the  work,  not  of  Congress  nor 
yet  of  the  state  legislatures,  but  of  "the  people  of  each  State, 
and  of  the  several  States/'  presumably  gathered  in  special 
convention.  As  for  Article  IV,  Section  2,  which  provides  for 
the  return  of  persons  held  to  service  and  labor,  this  clause 
does  not  apply  to  slaves  because  by  law  slaves  are  not  "per- 
sons" but  "things."  By  the  Constitution  American  slavery  is 
a  thing  unknown  —  every  bondsman  is  therefore  a  freeman! 
"The  conclusion,  then,  to  which  people  of  the  free  States 
must  corne,  is  this  —  that  southern  slavery  is  a  violation  of  the 
United  States  Constitution,  that  it  must  be  resisted  as  such."6 
He  granted  that  this  new  reading  of  the  Constitution  marked 
a  departure  from  his  initial  views.  "We  have  often  had  occa- 
sion to  speak  of  the  wickedness  of  the  national  compact,"  he 
conceded  but  added  quickly  that  his  denunciation  had  been 
"extorted  in  view  of  the  construction  which  has  been  put 
upon  certain  articles  in  the  Constitution  of  the  United  States, 
by  the  supreme  and  inferior  courts  — by  the  physical  co- 
operation of  the  free  States  to  keep  the  slaves  in  bondage  — 
and  by  the  tacit  recognition  of  slavery  which  was  made  on 
the  adoption  of  the  Constitution,  between  the  several  States." 
Now  with  a  proper  understanding  of  the  Constitution,  the 
abolitionists  had  only  to  uphold  the  fundamental  law  of  the 
land.  In  a  single  stroke  he  had  legitimized  abolition  and  com- 
mitted his  followers  to  political  action. 

First  and  most  important  in  his  program  of  constitutional 
action  was  the  vote  with  which  abolitionists  could  organize 
a  Christian  party  in  politics  "not  made  up  of  this  or  that  sect 
or  denomination,  but  of  all  who  fear  God  and  keep  his  com- 
mandments and  who  sincerely  desire  to  seek  judgment  and 


"OUR  DOOM  AS  A  NATION  IS  SEALED"  Zip 

relieve  the  oppressed."  Politics  was  admittedly  a  dirty  busi- 
ness and  weak  men  might  be  tempted  to  sell  their  principles 
for  political  gain.  But  changing  the  world  meant  accepting 
the  realities  of  political  power.  "I  know  it  is  a  belief  of  many 
professedly  good  men,"  he  had  written  in  1834,  "that  they 
ought  not  to  'meddle'  with  politics;  but  they  are  cherishing  a 
delusion,  which,  if  it  do  not  prove  fatal  to  their  own  souls, 
may  prove  the  destruction  of  the  country."7  However  logical 
the  use  of  the  ballot  now  seemed  to  him,  there  were  those 
abolitionists  in  1836  to  whom  it  was  a  snare.  They  argued 
that  from  its  inception  the  anti-slavery  movement  had  been  a 
moral  crusade,  and  they  cited  Garrison's  own  Declaration  of 
Sentiments  of  the  American  Anti-Slavery  Society,  which 
nowhere  mentioned  the  duty  to  vote,  as  proof  that  the  found- 
ers had  not  meant  to  rely  on  the  whims  of  mere  politicians. 
Impatiently  Garrison  brushed  these  objections  aside  with 
the  remark  that  since  he  had  drawn  up  the  declaration,  he 
might  be  assumed  "competent  to  give  an  exposition  of  its 
doctrines."8  The  founders  had  clearly  intended  that  both 
moral  suasion  and  the  franchise  be  brought  to  bear  on  slavery. 
Arguments  without  votes,  he  insisted,  accomplished  nothing. 
To  show  the  extent  of  his  political  commitment  he  sup- 
ported Amasa  Walker,  the  Democratic  candidate  for  a  Con- 
gressional seat,  against  the  conservative  Whig,  Abbott  Law- 
rence. "Ordinarily,  I  perceive  little  intelligence,  and  scarcely 
any  conscience,  or  honesty,  or  fear  of  God,  at  the  polls,"  he 
admitted  to  Boston's  Negro  voters.  "The  politics  of  this  na- 
tion, at  the  present  time,  are  corrupt,  prescriptive,  and  even 
ferocious."9  The  Whig  cause,  which  he  used  to  think  "essen- 
tially a  good  one,"  had  fallen  to  the  trimmer  Clay;  and  Jack- 
sonian  Democracy,  conceived  in  iniquity  and  unbelief,  was 
slavery's  behemoth.  Nevertheless,  it  behooved  abolitionists 
to  study  the  Southern  stratagem  and,  as  he  explained,  "to  be 


22O  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

competent  fully  to  unravel  its  political  relations  and  hearings. 
.  .  .  Although  we  may  not,  in  the  technical  sense  of  the  term, 
become  politicians  ourselves,  yet  it  is  vastly  important  that 
we  should  watch,  and  expose  mere  politicians  —  such  men  as 
Van  Buren,  Calhoun,  Pinckney,  and  the  like  —  and  the  latest 
movements  of  the  State  and  National  Governments,  in  their 
opposition  to  inalienable  human  rights  should  be  made  mani- 
fest before  all  the  people."10 

As  the  Presidential  campaign  entered  the  summer  of  1836 
and  the  election  in  Massachusetts  narrowed  to  a  choice  be- 
tween the  Little  Magician  and  the  trimmer  Daniel  Webster, 
Garrison  understood  for  the  first  time  the  nature  of  the  aboli- 
tionist dilemma.  "Political  abolitionists  are  now  placed  in  an 
awkward  predicament,"  he  admitted  to  his  friends.11  Both 
candidates  had  come  out  against  abolition  and  had  tried  to 
check  the  spread  of  anti-slavery  influence.  How  could  an  aboli- 
tionist vote  for  either  of  them?  "To  this  I  reply,"  Garrison 
wrote  a  week  before  the  election,  "it  is  not  necessary  that  they 
should  cast  their  votes  in  favor  of  any  Presidential  candidates, 
nor  do  we  see  how  they  can  properly  do  so."12  True  aboli- 
tionists belonged  to  no  party  or  sect;  they  had  emancipated 
themselves  once  and  for  all  from  political  shibboleths  and 
sectarian  fetters.  Abolition  alone  claimed  their  loyalty,  and 
"this  cause  they  can  never  abandon,  or  put  in  peril,  on  any 
pretext  whatever."  Since  both  parties  had  officially  declared 
their  hostility  to  anti-slavery,  reformers  must  be  wary  "lest 
they  be  seduced  from  their  integrity  of  character  by  political 
intrigue"  even  if  it  meant  relinquishing  their  right  to  vote. 
Such  was  the  origin  of  the  revolution  in  the  Garrisonian  at- 
titude which  was  to  end  a  few  years  later  in  the  doctrine  of 
disunion.  Faced  with  a  decision  that  involved  choosing  the 
lesser  of  two  evils  —  a  cardinal  rule  in  democratic  politics  — 
Garrison  refused  to  take  the  step  which  he  believed  an  aban- 


"OUR  DOOM  AS  A  NATION  IS  SEALED  221 

donment  of  principle.  In  thus  committing  his  followers  to  a 
boycott  of  elections  he  was  in  effect  challenging  the  demo- 
cratic process.  His  theory  of  disunion  did  not  appear  in  all 
its  splendid  simplicity  for  two  years,  but  the  decision  to 
"come  out"  from  a  corrupt  society  was  the  result  of  his  dis- 
illusionment with  the  Presidential  campaign  of  1836.  Hence- 
forth the  main  avenue  of  political  reform  remained  closed  to 
Garrison  and  those  like  him  who  preferred  righteousness  to 
success. 

For  a  while  during  the  election  year  it  seemed  that  an 
alternative  political  route  lay  through  Congress,  where  peti- 
tions might  do  the  work  of  ballots.  Garrison  had  pioneered 
in  the  organized  use  of  the  anti-slavery  petition  in  Vermont 
back  in  1828  and  was  well  aware  of  its  advantages.  In  the 
first  place,  the  right  of  petition  was  guaranteed  in  the  Consti- 
tution: Congress  was  obliged  to  receive  petitions  and  to  take 
some  kind  of  action,  however  unfavorable,  which  meant  in- 
valuable publicity  for  the  abolitionists.  Then,  too,  petitions 
were  cheap,  easy  to  circulate,  and  effective  in  bringing  the 
slavery  question  before  the  country.  Garrison's  first  petition 
campaign  in  1828-1829  had  provoked  a  lengthy  and  acri- 
monious debate  in  the  House  before  the  members  rejected 
abolition  of  slavery  in  the  District  as  inexpedient  and  danger- 
ous. The  advantages  of  a  petition  flood  were  too  obvious  to 
be  ignored. 

He  was  not  alone  in  recognizing  the  possibilities  of  the 
petition.  The  national  society,  disappointed  by  the  meager 
results  shown  by  the  anti-slavery  pamphlet,  was  turning  to 
what  everyone  agreed  was  a  more  economical  and  effective 
propaganda  device.  By  the  middle  of  the  decade  pamphlets 
had  proved  a  costly  failure.  To  be  sure,  they  had  won  the 
support  of  a  few  liberals  chiefly  concerned  with  civil  liberties, 
but  this  gain  had  been  more  than  nullified  by  the  problems 


222  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

of  cost  and  waste.  No  pamphlet  paid  for  itself,  distribution 
was  haphazard,  and  agents  seldom  knew  whether  the  thou- 
sands of  tracts  they  scattered  over  the  countryside  were  even 
read.  Petitions,  on  the  other  hand,  were  economical  and 
effective.  As  local  and  state  societies  took  up  the  strategy 
in  earnest,  the  number  of  petitions  forwarded  to  Congress, 
twenty  thousand  in  1836,  jumped  to  over  three  hundred 
thousand  two  years  later.  Petitions  against  the  foreign-slave 
trade,  petitions  for  the  abolition  of  slavery  in  the  District  of 
Columbia,  petitions  against  the  admission  of  new  slave  states, 
even  petitions  asserting  the  right  of  petition.  A  deluge  of 
signatures  poured  into  Congress  in  a  steadily  increasing  vol- 
ume until  the  Senate  and  House  of  Representatives  finally 
found  a  way  to  divert  the  flood  they  could  not  shut  off. 

At  first  Garrison  supported  the  petition  campaign  with 
enthusiasm.  He  gave  orders  to  Knapp  "to  make  everything 
give  way  (communications,  editorials,  and  all)  to  the  debates 
in  Congress  upon  the  petitions."13  Feverishly  he  directed  their 
distribution  and  collection,  and  gloated  over  the  increasing 
number  of  signatures.  "Send  me  your  petitions  to  Congress," 
he  ordered  George  Benson  in  January,  1836.  "  'Keep  the 
mill  a-going,'  as  the  saying  is.  The  blustering  of  the  southern 
members  in  Congress  is  ludicrous  enough.  The  knaves  and 
cowards!"14  In  April,  when  a  bill  for  the  admission  of  Arkan- 
sas stalled  in  the  House,  he  hastily  collected  and  forwarded 
petitions  to  keep  it  there.  His  enthusiasm  waned,  however, 
when  the  Southern  caucus  in  Congress  rallied  to  retaliate.  As 
early  as  January,  John  C.  Calhoun,  sensing  the  need  for  a 
countermeasure  against  petitions,  urged  his  colleagues  to  meet 
the  danger  now  before  it  was  too  late.  Thereupon  he  moved 
to  table  all  anti-slavery  petitions  as  "a  foul  slander  on  nearly 
one-half  of  the  states  of  the  Union."  After  a  heated  debate 
Calhoun's  motion  was  replaced  by  a  compromise  offered  by 


"OUR  DOOM  AS  A  NATION  IS  SEALED*'  22} 

James  Buchanan  of  Pennsylvania  which  avoided  outright  de- 
nial of  the  right  of  petition  by  providing  for  the  reception  of 
all  anti-slavery  petitions  coupled  with  a  rejection  of  their 
contents.  Buchanan's  rule  became  standard  Senate  procedure 
for  dealing  with  the  abolitionists.  The  House  had  John 
Quincy  Adams  to  contend  with,  and  Adams  waged  a  one- 
man  war  against  the  "gag  rule."  Over  his  protests  a  special 
committee  of  the  House  reported  three  resolutions  drawn  up 
by  its  chairman,  Henry  Laurens  Pinckney  of  South  Carolina. 
The  first  denied  the  power  of  Congress  to  abolish  slavery  in 
the  states;  the  second  declared  that  slavery  in  the  District  of 
Columbia  should  be  left  alone;  and  the  third  provided  that 
"all  petitions,  memorials,  resolutions,  propositions,  or  papers 
relating  in  any  way  to  any  extent  to  the  subject  of  slavery 
shall,  without  being  printed  or  referred,  be  laid  upon  the 
table  and  that  no  further  action  whatever  be  taken  thereon." 
The  Pinckney  gag  became  the  first  of  a  series  of  gag  rules 
designed  to  meet  the  abolitionist  challenge.  Not  even  Adams's 
parliamentary  skill  could  prevent  this  biennial  infringement 
of  civil  liberties:  a  gag  rule  was  passed  at  the  beginning  of 
each  new  session  until  finally,  in  1845  at  the  height  of  the 
Mexican  crisis,  the  last  of  them  was  repealed.  By  that  time 
Garrison  was  well  down  the  road  to  disunion  in  his  retreat 
from  politics  —  a  withdrawal  that  began  with  the  Pinckney 
resolutions  in  1836. 

From  the  White  House,  where  Demon  Democracy  was  to 
rule  for  four  more  years,  and  from  a  Congress  dominated 
by  apostate  Pinckneys  and  Calhouns,  Garrison  turned  hope- 
fully to  the  church  only  to  find  theocratic  conservatism  in 
the  person  of  Lyman  Beecher  in  the  pulpit.  In  1836  Beecher 
still  dreamed  of  a  Christian  America  united  in  a  single  Protes- 
tant church,  and  he  was  still  determined  to  ignore  any  social 
issue  too  thorny  to  be  settled  by  love  and  charity.  Beecher's 


224  ^^  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

difficulties  proceeded  from  his  bland  assumption  that  no  dif- 
ferences were  too  great  to  be  reconciled  by  a  strong  and 
united  church.  He  easily  identified  the  chief  dangers  to  the 
country  -  "political  atheism,"  "power-thirsty  politicians," 
"the  corrupting  influence  of  preeminent  prosperity,"  and 
"universality  of  the  suffrage."  To  combat  these  unwholesome 
influences  he  invoked  the  power  of  church  institutions,  an 
educated  clergy,  and,  above  all,  the  authority  of  the  Bible. 
In  the  summer  of  1836  he  delivered  a  ringing  defense  of  the 
divinity  of  the  Sabbath  as  the  moral  sun  of  the  universe  and 
God's  instrument  for  man's  salvation.  The  fourth  command- 
ment, as  he  explained  it,  emerged  as  the  sublime  ordering 
principle  of  Christian  life,  a  moral  law  enforced  by  a  learned 
clergy  and  offering  the  only  permanent  solution  to  the  prob- 
lems of  democratic  society.  Beecher's  sermon  sounded  the 
call  to  the  conservative  clergy  to  meet  the  challenge  of  Garri- 
son and  his  race  of  "impudent  young  men"  whose  defiance 
of  church  law  and  clerical  authority  presaged  a  new  age  of 
barbarism. 

Garrison  seized  on  Beecher's  sermon  as  a  lever  with  which 
to  pry  open  the  whole  question  of  slavery  and  the  church* 
It  was  not  just  that  the  good  doctor's  language  was  "extrava- 
gant and  preposterous,"  he  complained.  Beecher  offered  no 
Scriptural  authority  for  the  divinity  of  the  Sabbath.  Even 
more  serious  was  Beecher's  hidebound  conservatism  drawn 
from  the  letter  of  the  law  rather  than  the  spirit  of  Christ,  his 
program  to  make  "the  outward  observance  of  one  day  of  the 
week  ...  of  paramount  importance  to  every  thing  else  in 
the  moral  and  spiritual  world,  instead  of  being  subordinate 
and  cooperative."15  True  Christianity  required  the  "service 
of  God,  who  is  a  spirit,  and  must  be  worshipped  in  spirit  and 
in  truth,"  but  Beecher  and  the  theocrats  believed  that  law 
might  do  the  work  of  spirit.  They  were  loud,  earnest,  and 


"OUR  DOOM  AS  A  NATION  IS  SEALED"  2 25 

eloquent  in  behalf  of  the  sanctity  of  institutions,  yet  timid 
and  apprehensive  on  the  question  of  human  rights.  "Let  men 
consecrate  to  the  service  of  Jehovah  not  merely  one  day  in 
seven,  but  all  their  time,  thoughts,  actions  and  powers/'  Not 
outward  observance  but  inner  light.  "If  men  will  put  on 
Christ,"  Garrison  concluded,  "they  may  be  as  free  as  their 
Master,  and  he  is  Lord  even  of  the  Sabbath  day." 

These  strictures  not  unnaturally  stirred  the  New  England 
clergy  to  wonder  and  protest.  "Free  as  their  Master"  —  did 
Garrison  mean  freedom  from  sin,  the  attainment  of  perfec- 
tion? Letters  poured  into  the  Liberator  office  complaining  of 
the  editor's  veiled  language  and  deploring  his  apparently 
heretical  notions.  "As  I  anticipated,  my  remarks  upon  the 
sanctity  of  the  Sabbath,  in  the  Liberator,  are  subjecting  me 
to  much  censure,  particularly  among  the  pious  opposers  of 
the  anti-slavery  cause,"  Garrison  remarked  acidly.  The  New 
Hampshire  Patriot,  Vermont  Chronicle,  Christian  Mirror,  and 
Boston  Recorder  denounced  him  as  a  "monster"  and  an  "in- 
fidel," simply  because  he  held  that  all  time  should  be  devoted 
to  the  service  of  God  and  the  good  of  mankind,  because  he 
believed  that  "the  real  children  of  God  'do  enter  into  rest' 
here  on  earth,  without  being  necessitated  to  wait  for  a  respite 
until  eternity  dawns."16  Under  fire  from  a  hostile  press  and 
the  conservatives  in  the  Massachusetts  Society,  he  agreed  to 
leave  the  Sabbath  question  alone  and  return  to  anti-slavery. 
It  was  a  promise  he  could  not  keep:  his  investigation  of  "that 
pernicious  and  superstitious  notion"  had  precipitated  a  con- 
flict with  the  churches  that  lasted  his  lifetime. 

His  estrangement  from  the  church,  like  the  retreat  from 
politics,  was  the  result  of  a  profound  disillusionment.  He  was 
convinced  that  the  country  needed  more  practical  righteous- 
ness, more  benevolent  societies  and  good  works.  Instead  of 
attacking  slavery,  capital  punishment,  the  land  problem,  and 


226  THE  ITERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

the  other  social  evils  of  the  day,  the  churches  and  the  clergy 
were  indulging  in  doctrinal  disputes,  endless  polemics  and 
theological  hairsplitting.  As  the  Great  Revival  smoldered  out 
there  arose  a  new  spirit  of  sectarian  exclusiveness  and  denomi- 
nationalism.  The  years  after  1835  saw  a  clerical  reaction  to 
revivalism  which  produced  rifts  in  all  of  the  major  Protestant 
denominations  as  the  conservatives  seized  control  of  their 
churches  once  more.  In  1837  after  a  series  of  heresy  trials, 
the  Old  School  Presbyterians  finally  succeeded  in  driving  out 
over  half  of  their  membership  for  doctrinal  deviation.  The 
General  Conference  of  the  Methodist  Church  voted  in  1836 
to  prohibit  the  discussion  of  slavery  on  the  grounds  that  the 
only  "safe,  Scriptural  and  prudent  way"  for  their  members 
was  "wholly  to  refrain  from  the  agitating  subject  which  is 
now  convulsing  the  country."  The  decision,  which  led  Garri- 
son to  denounce  the  conference  as  "a  cage  of  unclean  birds, 
and  a  synagogue  of  Satan,"  eventually  provoked  a  number  of 
desertions  that  culminated  in  the  great  secession  of  1845.  The 
Baptist  Church  suffered  from  similar  desertions  as  the  majority 
of  their  clergy  showed  little  inclination  to  lead  their  congre- 
gations against  slavery.  Conservative  forces  and  sectional  pres- 
sures were  beginning  to  crack  the  fagade  of  Protestantism. 

Garrison  saw  only  the  Christian  logic  of  the  situation.  He 
had  grown  up  with  the  evangelical  beliefs  that  everything  lay 
within  the  province  of  Christianity  and  that  churches  were 
God's  agents  for  purifying  society.  Since  evil  was  one,  and 
all  sins  were  related,  the  Christian  solution  meant  applying 
Christian  principles  to  daily  life.  It  was  as  simple  as  that.  As 
voluntary  associations  of  true  Christians  the  churches  ought 
to  lead  the  way  in  reforming  society.  Instead  they  were 
ignoring  their  responsibilities  and  neglecting  all  the  "great 
subjects"  of  the  age.  "Oh  the  rottenness  of  Christendom,"  he 
wrote  to  May.  "Judaism  and  Romanism  are  the  leading 


"OUR  DOOM  AS  A  NATION  IS  SEALED"  227 

features  of  Protestantism.  I  am  forced  to  believe  that,  as  it 
respects  the  greater  portion  of  professing  Christians  in  this 
country,  Christ  has  died  in  vain.  In  their  traditions,  their 
forms,  their  vain  j  anglings,  their  self -righteousness,  their  will- 
worship,  their  sectarian  zeal  and  devotion,  their  infallibility 
and  exclusiveness,  they  are  Pharisees  and  Saducees,  they  are 
Papists  and  Jews."17  Far  from  encouraging  good  works  and 
personal  holiness,  the  churches  were  erecting  defenses  against 
it  by  isolating  their  congregations  from  the  world  of  sin  and 
substituting  worship  for  good  works.  The  message  of  Christ 
was  being  buried  beneath  the  rubble  of  ritualism.  "We  shall 
not  be  able  to  exclaim,  'O  death,  where  is  thy  sting?  O  grave, 
where  is  thy  victory?'  until  we  have  died  first  unto  sin  — 
crucified  the  old  man  with  his  lusts  —  put  on  the  new  man 
who  is  after  Christ  —  and  risen  in  spirit  with  Him  who  is  able 
to  save  all  who  believe  in  Him.  He  in  whom  the  Saviour 
dwells  can  never  be  surprised  by  calamity  or  death  —  he  has 
entered  into  rest,  even  while  in  the  flesh."18 

"Putting  on  Christ,"  "dying  unto  sin,"  "entering  into  rest" 
—  these  were  the  concepts  of  perfectionism,  the  vocabulary 
of  the  preachers  of  human  perfectibility.  They  were  also  the 
words  of  the  Vermont  visionary  John  Humphrey  Noyes, 
who  visited  Garrison  in  the  spring  of  1837  and  by  converting 
him  to  perfectionism  helped  change  the  course  of  his  anti- 
slavery  crusade. 

Christian  perfectionism,  the  doctrine  of  personal  holiness, 
taught  that  by  accepting  Christ  men  could  become  literally 
perfect.  When  men  leave  off  sinning  and  accept  Christ,  so  the 
perfectionists  believed,  henceforth  it  is  Christ  who  acts  in 
them  and  thus  sin  becomes  an  impossibility.  In  the  routine  of 
their  daily  lives  they  can  achieve  this  sinlessness  if  they  only 
want  to,  save  their  souls  and  at  the  same  time  regenerate  so- 
ciety. Perfectionism  erected  a  whole  social  ethic  on  the  simple 


2i8  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

command,  "Be  ye  perfect  even  as  your  heavenly  Father  is 
perfect,"  and  with  it  proposed  to  make  heaven  on  earth. 

Perfectionist  doctrine  appeared  in  many  guises  in  the  United 
States  after  1830:  in  the  preaching  of  Finney  and  his  Oberlin 
followers;  in  the  spiritual  communings  of  zealots  in  New 
York's  Burned-Over  District;  and,  in  its  most  complete  form, 
in  the  teachings  of  John  Humphrey  Noyes.  Although  it 
seemed  to  reflect  Jacksonian  beliefs  in  progress  and  the  mis- 
sion of  America,  in  reality  perfectionism  received  its  inspira- 
tion from  the  gospel  of  love  and  the  Second  Great  Awaken- 
ing. Its  origins  lay  in  the  New  Theology  of  Finney  and  the 
New  Haven  School  and  in  the  conviction  that  "obligation 
and  ability  are  commensurate."  Its  initial  premise  was  the 
total  freedom  of  man  to  follow  Christ.  Unlike  Jacksonian 
Democracy  with  its  laissez-faire  principles,  perfectionism  was 
essentially  exclusive,  severe,  and,  in  its  final  appeal,  authori- 
tarian. The  perfectionists  caught  the  vision  of  a  holy  life  in 
the  sermons  of  the  Great  Revival  and,  by  focusing  sharply 
on  the  experience  of  conversion,  distorted  the  dream  into  a 
millenarian  fantasy.  As  originally  propounded  by  Finney, 
perfectionism  meant  simply  a  striving  for  holiness.  Finney 
defined  the  true  Christian  as  one  who  preferred  the  glory  of 
God  to  his  own  selfish  interests,  and  sanctification  as  "the 
strength,  firmness  and  perpetuity  of  this  preference."  By  this 
he  did  not  mean  a  state  of  absolute  freedom  from  sin  but 
only  what  he  called  an  "assurance  of  faith"  when  men  "ha- 
bitually live  without  sin  and  fall  into  sin  at  intervals  so  few 
and  far  between  that,  in  strong  language,  it  may  be  said  in 
truth  they  do  not  sin."  Thus  perfection  became  for  Finney 
an  approximable  goal  rather  than  a  final  achievement  —  an 
ideal  to  be  pursued  but  never  completely  attained.  In  this 
same  spirit  his  followers  at  Oberlin  preached  perfectionism 
as  a  prolonged  act  of  dedication  and  denounced  as  "misguided 


"OUR  DOOM  AS  A  NATION  IS  SEALED  2 29 

fanatics"  those  who  "having  begun  in  the  spirit  ...  try  to 
become  perfect  in  the  flesh."  Such  parading  of  one's  purity 
seemed  to  them  to  savor  more  of  carnal  will  than  divine  grace 
and  a  second  blessing. 

John  Humphrey  Noyes  was  perplexed  by  the  halfway 
doctrines  of  Finney  and  the  hesitant  affirmations  of  the  New 
Haven  School.  As  a  student  at  Yale  he  imbibed  a  draught  of 
free  will  that  sent  his  literalist  mind  spinning.  If  Christ  is 
perfect  and  men  are  wholly  free  to  follow  his  example,  he 
reasoned,  then  they  may  become  perfect  not  in  a  metaphorical 
sense  of  the  word  but  in  becoming  actual  partakers  of  the 
divine  nature  and  sharing  in  Christ's  victory  over  sin  and 
death.  "Faith  identifies  the  soul  with  Christ,"  he  explained, 
"so  that  by  His  death  and  resurrection  the  believer  dies  and 
rises  again,  not  literally,  nor  yet  figuratively,  but  spiritually; 
and  thus,  so  far  as  sin  is  concerned,  is  placed  beyond  the 
grave,  in  heavenly  places  with  Christ."  Noyes  had  received 
his  second  blessing  in  a  Leonard  Street  boardinghouse  in 
New  York  where,  in  a  fevered  state  and  near  insanity,  he 
experienced  a  "spiritual  crucifixion"  not  as  spectator  but  as 
victim.  "And  at  last  the  Lord  met  me  with  the  same  promise 
that  gave  peace  to  my  soul  when  I  first  came  out  of  Egypt: 
*if  thou  wilt  confess  with  thy  mouth  the  Lord  Jesus  and 
shalt  believe  in  thine  heart  that  God  hath  raised  him  from  the 
dead,  thou  shalt  be  saved.'  By  faith  I  took  the  proffered  boon 
of  eternal  life.  God's  spirit  sealed  the  act,  and  the  blood  of 
Christ  cleansed  me  from  sin."  Soon  word  spread  through 
New  Haven  that  "Noyes  says  he's  perfect."19  This  indeed 
was  the  gist  of  the  message  which  he  came  to  Boston  to  tell 
Garrison. 

At  the  time  of  his  meeting  with  Garrison  in  1837  Noyes 
was  still  working  out  the  initial  premises  of  his  system.  Com- 
munal living,  common  property,  complex  marriage  were 


230  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

only  hazy  outlines  on  a  shore  dimly  seen.  What  was  already 
clear  to  Noyes,  however,  was  the  new  relationship  of  the 
perfectionist  to  the  society  and  the  government  of  the  United 
States,  and  this  he  proceeded  to  explain  to  Garrison,  Whittier 
and  Stanton.  A  week  after  the  visit  he  sat  down  and  put  his 
views  on  paper  for  Garrison's  benefit.  Presuming  on  "a  fel- 
lowship of  views  and  feelings"  which  he  had  sensed  at  the 
interview,  he  went  on  to  expound  the  question  of  the  king- 
dom of  God  and  its  relation  to  the  kingdom  of  this  world. 
"I  am  willing  that  all  men  should  know  that  I  have  subscribed 
my  name  to  an  instrument  similar  to  the  Declaration  of  '76, 
renouncing  all  allegiance  to  the  government  of  the  United 
States,  and  asserting  the  title  of  Jesus  Christ  to  the  throne  of 
the  world."20  This  was  no  metaphysical  abstraction  or  dramatic 
gesture,  he  assured  Garrison,  but  a  flat  statement  of  belief  and 
a  program  for  action.  The  United  States  government  acted 
the  bully  swaggering  about  and  trampling  underfoot  both 
the  Constitution  and  the  Bible,  whipping  slaves  at  the  liberty- 
pole  and  blaspheming  in  holy  places  by  proclaiming  slavery 
a  law  of  God.  What  then  could  the  Christian  do?  Escape? 
"But  every  other  country  is  under  the  same  reprobate  au- 
thority." The  only  solution  lay  in  "coming  out"  from  an 
evil  society,  fleeing  the  country  in  spirit,  and  refusing  to  be 
either  a  hypocrite  or  a  tyrant.  "Every  person  who  is,  in  the 
usual  sense  of  the  expression,  a  citizen  of  the  United  States, 
i.e.,  a  voter,  politician,  etc.,  is  at  once  a  slave  and  a  slave- 
holder—in other  words  a  subject  and  a  ruler."  God  would 
justify  him  in  the  character  of  subject  but  not  of  ruler,  Noyes 
explained,  and  only  by  renouncing  all  cooperation  with  the 
authorities  of  a  sinful  government  could  he  finally  cease  to 
do  evil  and  learn  to  do  well.  Reform  was  merely  an  illusion, 
since  reprobation  and  reproof,  as  the  history  of  the  abolition 
movement  showed,  only  aggravated  the  sins  of  the  people. 


"OUR  DOOM  AS  A  NATION  IS  SEALED"  131 

The  sole  choice  left  to  the  son  of  God  was  to  declare  war 
on  the  government  of  the  United  States  and  to  wage  it  with 
the  weapons  of  Christ  —  renunciation  and  repudiation. 

In  place  of  the  erroneous  axioms  of  American  government 
Noyes  offered  Garrison  some  self-evident  principles  of  his 
own.  First,  that  the  territory  of  the  United  States  belongs  to 
God,  and  the  American  people  are  guilty  of  infidelity  in  trying 
to  perpetuate  an  existence  outside  the  kingdom  of  Christ. 
Second,  that  all  nations  will  be  dashed  to  pieces  before  the 
arrival  of  the  kingdom  of  God,  and  all  governments  there- 
fore are  merely  "as  shadows  of  good  things  to  come.  .  .  .  The 
Son  of  God  has  manifestly,  to  me,  chosen  this  country  for 
the  theater  of  such  an  assault.  .  .  .  My  hope  of  the  millennium 
begins  'where  Dr.  Beecher's  expires  —  viz.,  AT  THE  TOTAL 
OVERTHROW  OF  THIS  NATION."  The  United  States  will  fall  be- 
fore a  revolution,  "a  convulsion  like  that  of  France,"  out  of 
which  will  come  instead  of  a  sanguinary  Napoleon  the  Prince 
of  Peace.  "The  convulsion  which  is  coming  will  be,  not  the 
struggle  of  death,  but  the  travail  of  childbirth  —  the  birth  of 
a  ransomed  world."  To  prepare  for  the  glorious  day  Noyes 
advised  Garrison  to  give  up  his  "fencing-school"  skirmish 
against  slavery  and  join  the  "general  engagement"  by  occupy- 
ing the  ground  of  universal  emancipation  from  sin.  "I  counsel 
you,  and  the  people  that  are  with  you,  if  you  love  the  post  of 
honor  —  the  forefront  of  the  hottest  battle  of  righteousness  — 
to  set  your  face  toward  perfect  holiness.  Your  station  is  one 
that  gives  you  power  over  the  nations.  Your  city  is  on  a  high 
hill.  ...  I  judge  from  my  own  experience  that  you  will  be 
deserted  as  Jonah  was  by  the  whale  —  the  world,  in  vomiting 
you  up,  will  heave  you  upon  the  dry  land." 

Garrison  succumbed  to  this  Messianic  appeal  with  its  deva- 
statingly  simple  logic.  Noyes  made  expediency  and  compro- 
mise cardinal  sins  by  erecting  an  absolute  standard  of  conduct 


2j2  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

with  which  to  measure  the  slightest  deviation  from  righteous- 
ness. The  simplicity  of  perfectionism  masked  its  authoritarian 
character,  its  oracular  demand  for  total  commitment  to  "prac- 
tical holiness."  It  was  as  though  Noyes  had  explained  and 
simplified  all  of  Garrison's  longings  and  desires.  Perfectionism 
satisfied  his  need  for  order  at  the  same  time  it  released  his 
tremendous  energy.  It  offered  the  security  of  a  seemingly 
consistent  system  free  from  confusing  exceptions  and  apparent 
contradictions.  It  replaced  reform  with  revolution  complete 
with  apocalyptic  vision  and  millenarian  myth.  But  there  was 
an  inherent  paradox  in  perfectionism  which  Garrison  failed 
to  see.  It  defined  goals  and  at  the  same  time  denied  the  au- 
thority of  institutions  through  which  these  goals  might  be 
attained.  It  pointed  out  the  good  society  and  then  refused 
permission  to  advance  toward  it.  Agreeing  on  the  nature  of 
evil,  the  perfectionists  were  unwilling  to  employ  the  political 
power  needed  to  wipe  it  out.  As  to  both  means  and  ends 
perfectionism  postulated  anarchy  by  reducing  social  wrongs 
to  a  question  of  personal  sin  and  appealing  not  to  community 
interest  but  to  individual  anxieties.  Instead  of  rational  appeals 
to  self-interest  or  national  welfare,  it  offered  the  jeremiad.  In 
perfectionism,  the  revival  doctrine  of  sanctification  reached 
its  outermost  limits  in  the  mystical  cult  of  personal  piety. 

Inspired  by  Noyes  and  determined  to  bring  all  of  his  vari- 
ous reform  interests  under  a  single  head,  Garrison  set  to  work 
adapting  perfectionism  to  his  own  needs.  Unlike  Noyes,  he 
could  not  lay  claim  to  a  "second  blessing,"  a  regenerative 
experience  which  could  raise  a  theological  concept  into  an 
article  of  faith.  He  turned  instead  to  the  Bible  which  he 
knew  so  well  and  pored  over  the  gospels  of  Paul  and  John 
for  confirmation  of  Noyes's  doctrines.  "He  that  is  born  of 
God  cannot  commit  sin."  "He  that  committed!  sin  is  of  the 
devil."  "There  is  therefore  no  condemnation  to  them  who 


UOUR  DOOM  AS  A  NATION  IS  SEALED"  233 

are  in  Christ  Jesus,  who  walk  not  after  the  flesh  but  after  the 
Spirit.  For  the  law  of  the  Spirit  of  life  in  Christ  Jesus  hath 
made  us  free  from  the  law  of  sin  and  death."  Here  was  proof 
in  abundance.  Excited,  he  wrote  to  Henry  Wright  to  share 
with  him  his  discovery. 

The  remedy  .  .  .  will  not  be  found  in  anything  short  of  faith 
in  our  Lord  Jesus  Christ  [he  assured  him].  Human  governments 
will  remain  in  violent  existence  as  long  as  men  are  resolved  not  to 
bear  the  cross  of  Christ,  and  to  be  crucified  unto  the  world.  But 
in  the  kingdom  of  God's  dear  Son,  holiness  and  love  are  the  only 
magistracy.  It  has  no  swords,  for  they  are  beaten  into  plough- 
shares —  no  spears,  for  they  are  changed  into  pruning-hooks  —  no 
military  academy,  for  the  saints  cannot  learn  war  any  more  —  no 
gibbet,  for  life  is  regarded  as  inviolate  —  no  chains,  for  all  are  free. 
And  that  kingdom  is  to  be  established  upon  earth,  for  the  time  is 
predicted  when  the  kingdoms  of  this  world  will  become  the  king- 
doms of  the  Lord  and  of  his  Christ.21 

In  preparing  for  the  Day  of  Judgment  unregenerate  politi- 
cians and  corrupt  democracy  will  inevitably  fail.  "Our  doom 
as  a  nation  is  sealed,"  he  wrote  in  the  Liberator  to  explain 
perfectionism  to  his  readers.  The  day  of  probation  is  ended 
and  we  are  not  saved.  Republican  government  is  doomed,  for 
the  spirit  of  Christ  has  fled  and  left  it  "in  a  state  of  loathsome 
decomposition."22 

If  the  United  States  is  destined  to  collapse,  then  why  do  the 
perfectionists  preach  repentance?  —  "of  what  avail  will  it  be 
for  any  of  us,  in  obedience  to  the  command  of  heaven,  to 
take  a  bunch  of  hyssop,  and  strike  the  lintel  and  side-posts  of 
our  dwellings  with  blood?"  Garrison's  reply  was  significant. 
"Because  the  Lord  is  to  pass  through  the  land,  to  redeem  the 
captives  and  punish  their  oppressors;  and  when  he  seeth  the 
blood  upon  the  lintels  and  side-posts,  the  Lord  will  pass 
over  the  door,  and  will  not  suffer  the  destroyer  to  come  into 


2,4  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

our  houses  to  smite  us."  At  Judgment  Day  it  will  be  every 
man  for  himself,  and  the  righteous  will  be  found  with  the 
angels. 

Garrison's  acceptance  of  perfectionism  marked  the  ascend- 
ancy in  his  mind  of  personal  salvation  over  social  responsi- 
bility. Since  its  inception  the  anti-slavery  movement  had 
veered  between  the  poles  of  individual  purity  and  communal 
regeneration.  Perfectionism  destroyed  the  social  force  of 
abolition  and  left  the  Garrisonians  grouped  about  the  pole  of 
sanctification  like  iron  filings  magnetized  by  the  pull  of  holi- 
ness. His  critics  were  right  in  complaining  of  the  anarchical 
tendencies  of  perfectionism  —  the  logical  outgrowth  of  its 
principles  was  disunion  and  the  denunciation  of  "the  cove- 
nant with  death/5 

Meanwhile  he  occupied  himself  with  the  "great  subject," 
defining  its  terms  in  verse  and  trying  to  grasp  the  essentials  of 
practical  holiness.  Perfection  bestows  eternal  rest: 

...  It  is  to  be 

Perfect  in  love  and  holiness; 
From  sin  eternally  made  free; 

Not  under  law,  but  under  grace; 
Once  cleansed  from  guilt,  forever  pure; 

Once  pardoned,  ever  reconciled; 
Once  healed,  to  find  a  perfect  cure; 

As  JESUS  blameless,  undefiled; 
Once  saved,  no  more  to  go  astray.  .  .  . 

The  political  implications  of  perfectionism  he  explained  in 
a  letter  to  Henry  Wright,  who  was  no  less  enthusiastic  about 
Christian  anarchy.  "Human  governments  pre-suppose  that 
the  government  of  God  is  essentially  defective  — not  suffi- 
ciently broad  and  comprehensive  to  apply  to  every  action  of 
life  between  man  and  man,  and  every  exigency  that  may  arise 


"OUR  DOOM  AS  A  NATION  IS  SEALED  235 

in  national  concerns.  .  .  .  But  human  government  rests  on  a 
choice  between  two  evils,  both  of  which  the  gospel  is  de- 
signed to  destroy."  Besides,  human  society  cannot  live  in  a 
state  of  anarchy  without  rapidly  annihilating  itself.  "What 
then?"  he  asked  Wright.  "Shall  we,  as  Christians,  applaud 
and  do  homage  to  human  government?  Or  shall  we  not 
rather  lay  the  axe  at  the  root  of  the  tree,  and  attempt  to 
destroy  both  cause  and  consequence  together?  Happy  will 
it  be  for  mankind,  when  He  whose  sole  right  it  is  to  reign, 
shall  come  and  reign."23  Until  that  time  he  foresaw  a  long 
period  of  trial  before  he  gained  acceptance  for  these  new 
truths.  Unhappily,  his  own  assignment  of  winning  the  assent 
of  the  American  people  seemed  to  require  neither  charity 
nor  forbearance. 


A  Woman  in  the  Pulpit 


IN  JUNE,  1837,  Garrison  attended  the  annual  meeting  of  the 
American  Anti-Slavery  Society  in  New  York.  Between  ses- 
sions he  wandered  into  the  Ladies  Anti-Slavery  Convention 
meeting  a  few  blocks  away  and  there  met  "Carolina's  high- 
souled  daughters,"  Sarah  and  Angelina  Grimke.  The  Grimke 
sisters,  keen  abolitionists  and  fierce  feminists  both,  were 
currently  holding  forth  on  the  sins  of  the  slaveholders  before 
assemblies  of  New  York  ladies  and  had  caused  so  much  of  a 
stir  in  the  city  that  they  were  already  contemplating  an 
invasion  of  New  England.  Garrison  must  have  been  encourag- 
ing, for  two  weeks  later  the  sisters  arrived  in  Boston  primed 
with  lectures  for  New  England  audiences  and  anxious  to 
enlist  his  support  for  the  emancipation  of  women. 

Sarah  and  Angelina  Grimke,  aged  forty-four  and  thirty- 
two,  were  the  prim,  plain  spinster  daughters  of  a  Charleston 
planter.  Educated  for  the  gaieties  of  Charleston  society,  the 
sisters  reluctantly  endured  their  share  of  fancy  balk  and 
theater  parties  until  their  brother,  fresh  from  an  indoctrination 
at  Yale,  mercifully  set  them  free  from  worldly  snares  by  con- 
verting them  to  Christian  reform.  In  1835  *hey  moved  to 
Philadelphia,  where  first  Sarah  and  then  Angelina  joined  the 
Quakers  and  became  abolitionists.  Both  were  outspoken  and 
remarkably  articulate  if  more  than  a  trifle  antiseptic.  In  that 


A  WOMAN  IN  THE  PULPIT  237 

year  Angelina  published  an  Appeal  to  the  Christian  Women 
of  the  South  and  Sarah  an  Epistle  to  the  Clergy  of  the  South, 
high-toned  pleas  for  the  slave,  both  of  which  were  promptly 
burned  by  the  Charleston  postmaster.  The  sisters  deemed 
such  rancor  a  sufficient  deterrent  to  their  return  and  hence- 
forth confined  their  activities  to  the  North. 

The  national  society  could  hardly  afford  to  ignore  such 
promising  material,  and  accordingly  the  sisters  were  invited 
to  attend  Weld's  series  of  lectures  to  prepare  for  work  in 
the  field.  They  impressed  Weld  as  much  by  their  impatience 
as  by  their  intelligence,  for  they  threw  themselves  into  anti- 
slavery  work  in  New  York  as  though  it  held  the  answer  to 
woman's  worth  to  American  society.  They  visited  Negro 
homes,  addressed  women's  anti-slavery  auxiliaries,  held  court 
for  the  leading  abolitionists  of  the  city,  and  meanwhile  per- 
fected their  considerable  histrionic  talents.  They  were  more 
than  ready  when  Garrison  beckoned  them  to  Boston. 

Sarah  was  a  seeker  who  found  in  the  anti-slavery  crusade 
a  temporary  escape  from  the  boredom  and  loneliness  that 
awaited  the  spinster  in  the  nineteenth  century.  She  was  tall, 
angular,  homely  beyond  belief,  on  the  threshold  of  middle 
age,  unhappy  with  her  status  and  determined  to  change  it. 
She  had  experimented  with  Methodism  and  Presbyterianism 
before  seeking  an  outlet  for  her  feminist  energies  in  the  So- 
ciety of  Friends.  Even  among  the  Quakers  she  felt  constrained 
by  rules  and  customs  that  seemed  to  advertise  the  natural 
inferiority  of  her  sex.  Everywhere  she  turned  she  encountered 
the  will  to  keep  women  in  unholy  subjection  to  men.  "I  am 
greatly  mistaken,"  she  once  told  Weld,  "if  most  men  have 
not  a  desire  that  women  should  be  silly."  They  need  be  silly 
no  longer,  she  declared;  the  great  self-evident  principles  of 
human  rights  could  be  invoked  in  behalf  of  women  as  well 
as  slaves,  Angelina,  younger  and  more  impetuous,  though 


238  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

scarcely  prettier  than  her  sister,  agreed  that  the  cause  of 
woman's  rights  was  bound  to  that  of  the  slave.  Already  half 
in  love  with  Weld  and  determined  to  show  him  her  real 
worth,  she  easily  mastered  the  art  of  lecturing  and  began  to 
use  the  anti-slavery  platform  as  a  sounding  board  for  her 
feminist  as  well  as  her  abolitionist  convictions.  Her  sister  was 
apt  to  stammer  and  mumble  through  her  talks,  but  Angelina 
soon  perfected  a  delivery  which,  while  properly  reticent,  was 
also  eloquent  and  moving. 

Together  the  Grimkes  took  Boston  by  storm.  In  the  be- 
ginning they  spoke  only  to  small  groups  of  dedicated  females, 
but  soon  they  branched  out  to  "promiscuous  assemblies"  of 
determined  wives  and  their  curious  husbands  who  came  to 
hear  the  famous  sisters  exalt  the  national  character  of  the 
American  woman.  Angelina  and  Sarah  warmed  to  Boston 
immediately.  "There  is  some  elasticity  in  this  atmosphere," 
Sarah  reported  to  Weld.  "I  have  been  truly  refreshed  by 
mingling  with  the  abolitionists  of  Boston  and  vicinity.  ...  I 
feel  as  if  I  was  helped,  strengthened,  invigorated,  and  I  trust 
the  cause  of  God  will  be  advanced."1  The  advance  of  aboli- 
tion, however,  was  destined  to  be  stalled  by  the  whims  of 
these  feminine  perfectionists.  Courageous  and  self-reliant  as 
they  appeared,  the  sisters  were  in  fact  singularly  dependent 
upon  the  ideas  and  opinions  of  men.  In  New  York  they  had 
found  a  father  and  teacher  in  Theodore  Weld;  in  Boston 
they  inevitably  fell  under  the  spell  of  the  "noble  Garrison." 

Since  his  fateful  interview  with  Noyes,  Garrison  had  been 
too  busy  attending  conventions  and  worrying  over  the  future 
of  the  Liberator  to  devote  himself  wholly  to  perfectionism. 
At  the  annual  meeting  of  the  Massachusetts  Society  earlier 
that  year  he  had  squelched  objections  to  his  editorial  thunder- 
tones  and  won  the  support  of  the  Board  of  Managers  for  his 
plan  for  obtaining  financial  aid  while  keeping  his  editorial 


A  WOMAN   IN  THE  PULPIT  239 

independence.  With  the  society  supposedly  behind  him  he 
began  lashing  out  at  the  New  England  churches  and  their 
ministry,  ridiculing  the  pastoral  office  and  denouncing  the 
complacency  of  congregations.  Some  of  his  censure  was  ab- 
surdly petty.  "We  object  to  the  term  'house  of  God'  as  ap- 
plied to  any  building  made  by  man,"  he  announced.  "It  has 
begotten  much  superstition,  is  not  correct  in  fact,  nor  is  it 
authorized  by  the  gospel."  He  did  not  stop  with  mere  carp- 
ing, however,  but  proceeded  to  accuse  the  churches  of  foster- 
ing corruption  and  despotism  and  asked  whether  the  advo- 
cates of  truth  were  not  obliged  to  come  out  from  among 
them.  Not  satisfied  with  his  general  indictment  he  singled 
out  Professor  Moses  Stuart  of  Andover  and  President  Wilbur 
Fisk  of  Wesleyan  as  objects  of  rebuke.  Fisk  had  asked  Stuart 
for  his  views  on  the  Biblical  sanction  for  slavery;  and  Stuart, 
after  careful  study  of  the  New  Testament,  gave  as  his  opin- 
ion that  the  relation  of  master  and  slave  was  not,  as  a  matter 
of  course,  abrogated  between  all  Christians.  When  Garrison 
read  this  "piece  of  self-contradiction  and  absurdity,"  he  dis- 
missed it  with  the  sneering  observation  that  "no  man  — 
whether  he  be  a  Doctor  of  Divinity  or  a  Doctor  of  Law,  or 
the  most  learned  rabbi  in  the  land,  can  write  or  talk  five 
minutes,  either  in  vindication  or  palliation  of  the  crime  of 
slaveholding  without  uttering  gross  absurdity  or  flat  blas- 
phemy."2 This  was  his  mood  when  the  Grimkes  swept  into 
New  England. 

He  was  in  Brooklyn  recuperating  from  an  exhausting  round 
of  conventions  when  the  Grimkes  arrived.  The  sisters  thus 
fell  into  the  eager  if  not  very  capable  hands  of  Henry  Wright, 
his  partner  in  perfectionism  and  an  agent  of  the  national  so- 
ciety in  New  England.  Garrison  did  not  meet  the  formidable 
sisters  until  the  end  of  the  summer,  but  meanwhile  he  began 
surveying  the  questions  of  slavery  and  human  government 


240  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GAKRISON 

from  the  rarefied  plane  of  Noyes's  perfectionism.  It  was  a 
dizzying  perspective.  Human  government,  he  concluded,  was 
better  than  anarchy  just  as  a  hailstorm  was  preferable  to  an 
earthquake  or  the  smallpox  to  the  Asiatic  cholera.  Forms  of 
government  hardly  mattered,  since  all  institutions  rested  on 
ambition  and  pride,  selfishness  and  hatred.3  The  idea  of  any 
human  government  supposed  that  God's  plan  was  radically 
defective.  Left  to  their  own  devices  men  would  rapidly 
annihilate  themselves  and  peace  would  come  with  the  rule  of 
Christ. 

Politicians  and  philosophers  have  sometimes  foolishly  speculated 
about  the  best  forms  of  human  government,  and  their  relative 
adaptation  to  the  conditions  of  mankind  in  the  various  parts  of 
the  Globe  —  whether,  for  instance,  the  republican  form  is  not 
better  than  the  monarchial,  and  the  elective  than  the  hereditary, 
in  all  cases.  But  this  is  idle.  What  is  government  but  the  express 
image  of  the  moral  character  of  a  people?  As  a  general  rule,  in 
the  nature  of  things,  the  deeper  a  nation  is  sunken  in  ignorance 
and  depravity,  the  more  arbitrary  and  cruel  will  be  the  govern- 
ment established  over  it,  both  in  a  religious  and  political  point 
of  view.4 

While  Garrison  pondered  the  apocalypse  in  his  rustic  sur- 
roundings, the  Grimkes  and  Henry  Wright  were  preparing 
the  day  of  its  coming.  "Dear  brother  Wright,"  as  Angelina 
called  him,  was  the  first  and  most  durable  of  the  Garrisonian 
radicals.  He  was  a  spare,  rawboned  man  with  granitic  fea- 
tures, close-cropped  iron-gray  hair  and  glacial  blue  eyes  — 
one  of  Garrison's  yeomen  who  "have  gloriously  triumphed 
over  the  aristocracy  of  the  city."  By  trade  a  hatmaker,  he 
studied  theology  at  Andover  and  at  the  age  of  twenty-six 
took  a  church  in  West  Newbury  just  as  Garrison  launched 
the  Free  Press  and,  like  him,  was  soon  swallowed  up  in  the 
sea  of  moral  reform.  He  served  as  agent  of  the  American 


A  WOMAN  IN  THE  PULPIT 


Sunday  School  Union,  became  a  member  of  William  Ladd's 
peace  society,  and  joined  the  abolitionists  in  1835.  Garrison 
pronounced  him  "a  valuable  acquisition  to  our  cause  —  a  fear- 
less, uncompromising  and  zealous  Christian."  He  might  have 
added  that  Wright  was  also  restless,  vain  and  querulous.  One 
of  the  most  remarkable  aspects  of  a  career  studded  with 
broken  friendships  was  the  deep  affection  which  these  two 
overbearing  and  ambitious  men  had  for  each  other.  Both  were 
"ultras"  who  looked  out  at  the  sins  of  the  world  through  the 
strong  lens  of  moral  absolutes  and  spied  their  salvation  in 
works  of  practical  holiness.  When  he  first  met  the  Grimkes 
and  appointed  himself  their  agent,  Wright  was  one  of  Weld's 
Band  of  Seventy  and  the  Children's  Agent  for  New  England. 
An  uncompromising  Christian  he  may  have  been,  but  an  ef- 
fective anti-slavery  agent  he  certainly  was  not.  His  obsession 
with  nonresistance  and  his  willingness  to  drop  the  subject  of 
slavery  like  a  hot  coal  whenever  the  peace  question  arose  made 
him  something  of  a  headache  to  the  Agency  Committee,  who 
were  less  interested  in  the  millennium  than  in  freedom  for 
the  slave.  A  lecture  tour  by  two  ardent  feminists  endorsed 
by  Garrison  and  managed  by  Wright  contained  all  the  ex- 
plosive ingredients  of  a  crisis. 

With  Wright  as  counselor  the  Grimkes  quickly  took  up 
perfectionism  in  earnest.  They  read  Noyes's  paper  eagerly 
and  discussed  with  Wright  the  fine  points  of  nonresistance, 
public  worship,  the  status  of  women,  and  the  failings  of  hu- 
man government.  "Sometimes  I  am  ready  to  turn  away  from 
the  contemplation  of  these  subjects  least  [sic]  my  mind 
should  not  dwell  sufficiently  on  slavery,"  Sarah  confessed 
to  Weld,  but  added  that  the  more  she  reflected  on  the  prob- 
lem, the  more  she  was  convinced  that  "light  on  every  subject 
is  a  blessing."6  Angelina  was  even  more  obdurate.  When  the 
New  England  dergy  began  to  object  to  her  addressing  mixed 


242  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

audiences,  she  replied  that  "the  time  to  assert  a  right  is  the 
time  when  that  right  is  denied,"  and  that  if  she  were  to  be  of 
any  use  in  the  anti-slavery  cause  her  right  to  labor  in  it  must 
be  firmly  established.  Anti-slavery  conservatives,  she  com- 
plained, were  trying  hard  to  separate  what  God  had  joined 
together.  For  one,  she  did  not  see  how  different  moral  re- 
forms could  ever  be  kept  entirely  distinct.  "The  whole 
Church  Government  must  come  down,"  she  informed  the 
startled  Weld.  "The  clergy  stand  right  in  the  way  of  reform, 
and  I  do  not  know  but  this  stumbling  block  too  must  be 
removed  before  Slavery  can  be  abolished,  for  the  system  is 
supported  by  them;  it  could  not  exist  without  the  Church  as 
it  is  called."6  Poor  Weld,  who  loved  Angelina  but  not  her 
"highly  analogical"  mind,  objected  strenuously  to  arguments 
which  he  told  her  "reversed  the  laws  of  nature.  .  .  .  No  moral 
enterprise  when  prosecuted  with  ability  and  any  sort  of 
energy  EVER  failed  under  heaven  so  long  as  its  conductors 
pushed  the  main  principles  and  did  not  strike  off  until  they 
got  to  the  summit  level,"  he  reminded  the  sisters  sternly.  On 
the  other  hand,  every  moral  enterprise  that  ever  foundered 
was  capsized  by  a  gusty  side  wind.  Perfectionism  and  woman's 
rights,  he  could  see,  were  blowing  up  a  storm  in  Boston  that 
might  swamp  the  anti-slavery  bark.7 

In  September  the  sisters  met  Garrison  at  long  last.  "Dear 
brother  Garrison  has  been  passing  the  day  with  us,"  Sarah 
reported  from  Brookline,  "as  iron  sharpeneth  iron  so  doth  a 
man  the  countenance]  of  his  friend  and  it  has  cheered  my 
spirit  to  find  that  he  unites  fully  with  us  on  the  subject  of  the 
rights  of  women."8  He  joined  in  deploring  the  failures  of 
New  England  ministers  and  promised  to  keep  the  Liberator 
filled  with  editorials  upholding  the  cause  of  freedom  for 
women.  The  sisters  suggested  he  abandon  anti-slavery  as  the 
exclusive  object  of  his  paper  and  include  all  the  "grand  prin- 


A  WOMAN  IN  THE  PULPIT  243 

ciples"  of  moral  reform.  "I  feel  somewhat  at  a  loss,"  he  ad- 
mitted, "to  know  what  to  do  — whether  to  go  into  all  the 
principles  of  holy  reform,  and  make  the  abolition  cause  sub- 
ordinate, or  whether  still  to  persevere  in  the  one  beaten  track 
as  hitherto."  Before  he  had  time  to  decide,  the  Grimkes  had 
touched  off  the  controversy  which  was  to  end  two  years 
later  in  the  disruption  of  the  anti-slavery  movement. 

The  trouble  began,  Sarah  admitted,  when  the  Lord  "very 
unexpectedly  made  us  the  means  of  bringing  up  the  discussion 
of  the  question  of  woman's  preaching."9  Even  crusty  Amos 
Phelps  temporarily  relinquished  his  Pauline  prejudices  and 
went  to  hear  Angelina.  Large  and  enthusiastic  audiences  led 
Sarah  to  conclude  that  the  time  was  approaching  when  Chris- 
tians would  realize  that  there  was  neither  male  nor  female 
but  that  all  were  one  in  Christ.  That  time,  she  soon  dis- 
covered, was  not  yet.  The  General  Association  of  Congrega- 
tional Ministers,  which  met  in  the  summer  of  1837,  saw  in  the 
Grimkes'  indiscreet  behavior  a  means  of  settling  accounts  with 
Garrison  for  his  unseemly  remarks  on  their  churches.  The 
ministers  drew  up  a  pastoral  letter  denouncing  the  tendency 
of  reformers  to  introduce  "perplexed  and  agitating  subjects" 
into  their  congregations  and  deploring  the  loss  of  deference 
to  the  pastoral  office  which  was  the  mark  of  Christian  urban- 
ity and  "a  uniform  attendant  of  the  full  influence  of  religion 
upon  the  individual  character."  Without  naming  the  Grimkes 
or  Garrison  the  pastoral  letter  warned  of  "the  dangers  which 
at  present  seem  to  threaten  the  female  character  with  wide- 
spread and  permanent  injury"  by  leading  her  to  transcend 
"the  modesty  of  her  sex."  Especially  did  they  bewail  the 
intimate  acquaintance  and  "promiscuous  conversation"  of 
females  with  regard  to  things  which  ought  not  to  be  named, 
"by  which  that  delicacy  which  is  the  charm  of  domestic  life, 
and  which  constitutes  the  true  influence  of  woman  in  society, 


244  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

is  consumed  and  the  way  opened,  as  we  apprehend,  for  de- 
generacy and  ruin."10  No  longer  would  the  Grimkes  be 
permitted  their  oblique  references  to  the  sexual  habits  of  slave- 
holders. 

As  a  weapon  against  Garrison  the  pastoral  letter  was  not 
very  formidable  and  might  best  have  been  ignored,  but  be- 
fore he  mustered  a  reply  a  second  allegation  burst  on  the 
public,  an  Appeal  of  Clerical  Abolitionists  on  Anti-Slavery 
Measures,  signed  by  five  clergymen  from  eastern  Massachu- 
setts. The  dissenters  found  the  courage  publicly  to  disapprove 
Garrison's  course  and  accuse  him  of  "hasty,  unsparing,  al- 
most ferocious  denunciation"  of  everybody  who  disagreed 
with  him.  "The  time  is  very  fully  in  our  recollection,"  they 
declared,  "when  *we  were  not  abolitionists;  nor  are  we  con- 
scious that  *we  were  then  either  hypocrites  or  knaves."11 

The  clerical  appeal,  though  the  work  of  only  a  handful  of 
ministers,  had  the  merit  of  broadening  the  charges  against 
Garrison  from  mere  clerical  pique  at  the  invasion  of  women 
to  a  general  indictment  of  his  radical  methods.  For  his  part, 
Garrison  was  delighted  with  it  since  it  gave  him  a  chance  to 
fight  on  the  solid  ground  of  anti-clericalism  rather  than  on  the 
shifting  sands  of  woman's  rights.  Hurriedly  he  sent  his  reply 
for  immediate  publication  in  the  Liberator.  Ignoring  the 
charges  of  personal  malice  and  incompetence,  he  identified 
as  the  chief  supporters  of  slavery  those  "latter-day  Jesuits" 
and  "rabbis"  in  sacerdotal  robes  who  presumed  to  censure 
honest  men.  "Abolitionism  brings  ministers  and  laymen  upon 
the  same  dead  level  of  equality,  and  repudiates  all  'clerical' 
assumption  and  spiritual  supremacy.  Nothing  can  be  more 
offensive  to  it,  than  this  attempt  to  enforce  opinions  in  an 
oracular  tone  as  CLERGYMEN."12 

Meanwhile  the  New  England  Spectator,  the  organ  of  the 
clerical  party,  printed  an  attack  from  still  another  clergyman, 


A  WOMAN  IN  THE  PULPIT  245 

James  T.  Woodbury,  who  had  been  longing  for  the  chance 
to  squelch  the  Liberator.  "I  am  an  abolitionist,"  Woodbury 
wrote,  "and  I  am  so  in  the  strictest  sense  of  the  term;  but  I 
never  swallowed  Wm.  Lloyd  Garrison,  and  I  never  tried  to 
swallow  him."  Garrison,  he  continued,  was  bent  on  the  over- 
throw of  the  Sabbath,  the  ministry,  and  the  whole  American 
church.  "We  are  not  willing  for  the  sake  of  killing  rats,  to 
burn  down  the  house  with  all  it  contains."  With  his  "peculiar 
theology"  Garrison  had  become  a  menace  to  the  anti-slavery 
cause  and  must  be  disavowed.  "No  doubt,  if  you  break  with 
Garrison,  some  will  say,  'You  are  no  abolitionist,'  for,  with 
some,  Garrison  is  the  god  of  their  idolatry.  He  embodies 
abolition.  He  is  abolition  personified  and  incarnate."  He  was 
nonetheless  dangerous,  Woodbury  declared,  and  called  on 
Christian  reformers  to  save  the  anti-slavery  cause  from  heresy 
and  atheism.13 

Woodbury's  letter  was  a  tactical  error,  for  it  shifted  the 
ground  of  attack  once  more  from  Garrison's  anti-clericalism 
to  questions  of  personality.  Garrison  was  quick  to  oblige  his 
critic.  His  distaste  was  not  an  isolated  case,  he  reminded 
Woodbury.  "The  robbers  of  God's  poor,  the  supporters  of 
lynch  law,  the  chief  priests,  scribes  and  pharisees,  have  all 
been  unable  to  'swallow  Wm.  Lloyd  Garrison.' "  Yet  in 
a  sense,  he  pointed  out,  all  thoroughgoing  abolitionists  had 
followed  him  from  colonization  to  abolition,  then  from  gradual- 
ism to  immediatisni.  How  else  explain  his  "delightful  associ- 
ation" with  men  of  all  political  parties  and  religious  denomi- 
nations? Because  of  his  uncompromising  way  of  telling  the 
truth  he  was,  in  fact,  indispensable  to  the  cause.14 

The  Executive  Committee  of  the  national  society  viewed 
this  quarrel  with  growing  dismay.  On  the  scene  was  one  of 
their  agents,  Henry  B.  Stanton,  a  sharp-eyed  and  hardheaded 
organizer  with  little  patience  for  either  Garrison's  religious 


246  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

notions  or  the  pompous  pretensions  of  the  clerical  party, 
Stanton  identified  the  cause  of  the  row  as  Garrison's  personal 
brand  of  "locofocoism"  which  had  ignited  the  fuse  of  a  con- 
servative reaction.  Unless  the  Executive  Committee  inter- 
vened, he  warned,  there  would  be  a  war  of  extermination  that 
could  spell  the  end  of  anti-slavery  in  New  England.  "I  ex- 
pect to  see  the  Liberator  containing  3  or  4  columns  castigating 
bro.  Woodbury  and  the  Andover  students,"  he  predicted, 
"  —  and  next  week,  in  the  Liberator,  I  expect  to  see  4  or  5 
columns  —  in  reply  to  the  'Protest'  of  bros.  Fitch  and  Towne, 
and  then  in  due  time,  another  reply  to  their  next  'protest,'  and 
then  their  rejoinder,  and  his  surrejoinder  with  their  rebutter, 
and  his  surrebutter."15  The  dissidents  demanded  nothing  less 
than  the  separation  of  the  Liberator  and  the  Massachusetts 
Anti-Slavery  Society.  Woodbury,  Fitch  and  Company  had 
been  pushed  to  the  wall  and  were  resolved  to  stand  it  no 
longer;  the  Garrisonians  were  determined  on  war  to  the 
knife.  "They  will  not  yield  an  inch,  to  prevent  the  formation 
of  a  thousand  new  organizations."  Unless  an  "umpire  influ- 
ence" from  New  York  prevented  it,  the  New  England 
mutiny,  Stanton  cautioned  the  Executive  Committee,  would 
destroy  the  cause. 

But  what  was  the  Executive  Committee  to  do?  Lewis 
Tappan  thought  the  whole  affair  inflated  to  ridiculous  pro- 
portions, a  local  squabble  which  the  national  society  could 
well  ignore.  He  wrote  Garrison  to  this  effect  and  added  that 
he  did  not  think  the  clerical  appeal  such  a  "monstrous  sub- 
ject" that  it  required  all  the  abolition  artillery  in  the  nation 
to  dispose  of  it.  Besides,  he  reminded  Garrison,  the  Liberator 
frequently  gave  cause  for  complaint.  "THE  SPIRIT  EXHIBITED 

BY  THE  EDITOR  PRO.  TEM  [Oliver  JohllSOn]  AND  SOMETIMES 
BY  YOURSELF,  HAS  NOT  BEEN  SUFFICIENTLY  KIND  AND  CHRIST- 
LIKE."16  James  Birney,  now  a  full-fledged  abolitionist,  went 


COURTESY  OF  THE  BOSTON  ATHENAEUM 


HELEN  BENSON  GARRISON- 


GARRISON  AT  THIRTY 


GARRISON  AT  SEVENTY 


BENJAMIN  LUNDY 


PRUDENCE  CRANDALL, 
THE  QUAKER  SCHOOLMISTRESS 


SAMUEL  JOSEPH  MAY 


ANGELINA  GRIMKE 


SARAH  GRIMKE 


THEODORE  WELD 


HENRY  C.  WRIGHT 


NATHANIEL  P.  ROGERS 


ABBY  KELLEY  FOSTER 


STEPHEN  SYMONDS  FOSTER 


A  WOMAN  IN  THE  PULPIT 


even  further  in  reproaching  Garrison  for  his  lack  of  self- 
control.  "If  Mr.  Garrison,  or  anyone  else  among  us,  thinks 
that  he  is  authorized  to  judge  and  rebuke  as  Christ  judged 
and  rebuked,  it  becomes  him  to  recall  the  instances  of  melt- 
ing love,  the  meekness,  the  forbearance  of  the  Master."17 
Garrison  shot  back  the  terse  rejoinder  that  "Bro.  Birney  ap- 
pears to  have  grown  exceedingly  fastidious  and  hypercritical." 

It  was  Elizur  Wright,  however,  who  wrote  to  Garrison  all 
the  "objectionable  things"  that  candor  induced  him  to  say. 
He  had  hoped  that  Garrison  could  have  conducted  his  paper 
"without  travelling  off  the  ground  of  our  true,  noble,  heart- 
stirring  Declaration  of  Sentiments,"  but  since  he  had  chosen 
to  wander  from  the  straight  path  of  abolition,  he  must  not 
complain  when  other  abolitionists  as  dedicated  as  himself 
objected  to  his  novel  views.  Wright  spoke  of  himself  as  typi- 
cal of  these  men.  "As  you  well  know,  I  am  comparatively 
no  bigot  to  any  creed,  political  or  theological;  yet  to  tell  the 
plain  truth,  I  look  upon  your  notions  of  government  and 
religious  perfection  as  downright  fanaticism  —  as  harmless  as 
they  are  absurd.  I  would  not  care  a  pin's  head  if  they  were 
preached  to  all  Christendom;  for  it  is  not  in  the  human  mind 
(except  in  a  peculiar  and  diseased  state,)  to  believe  them." 
How  could  Garrison  expect  to  avoid  the  censure  of  all  intelli- 
gent men  when  he  insisted  on  making  these  heretical  opinions 
the  test  of  anti-slavery  orthodoxy?  Leave  the  question  of 
government  alone  until  the  Negro  was  free,  Wright  warned 
—  "then  you  may  make  your  will  upon  it  for  all  of  me.  .  .  . 
But  if  this  cannot  be  done,  why,  come  out  plainly  and  say  you 
have  left  the  old  track  and  started  on  a  new  one  —  or,  rather, 
two  or  three  new  ones  at  once,  and  save  us  from  the  miserable 
business  of  making  disclaimers."18 

Wright's  plain  speaking  only  convinced  Garrison  that  the 
forces  of  sectarianism  had  invaded  national  headquarters, 


248  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

where  something  was  obviously  amiss.  "Our  friends  at  New 
York,"  he  replied  ominously,  "may  rely  upon  it,  that  the 
course  which  they  have  resolved  to  pursue,  respecting  this 
matter,  will  very  much  displease  the  great  body  of  abolition- 
ists, and  alienate  them  and  their  money  from  the  Parent  So- 
ciety."19 Justice  clearly  upheld  the  Garrisonians,  and  the 
Executive  Committee  must  not  mind  if  the  Garrisonians,  in 
turn,  gave  Justice  a  helping  hand. 

The  scenario  for  the  Clerical  Conspiracy  was  pure  opera 
bouffe,  but  the  questions  it  raised  were  —  and  still  are  —  funda- 
mental to  American  politics.  Where  does  social  reform  be- 
gin —  in  the  gradual  improvement  of  society  or  in  the  con- 
science of  the  private  citizen?  What  is  the  more  effective 
instrument  of  reform  —  the  political  minority  which  accepts 
its  role  in  a  democratic  society  or  the  religious  sect  which 
repudiates  the  community  and  its  laws?  Is  it  better  to  accept 
half  a  loaf  or  refuse  to  take  less  than  the  whole?  Who  ac- 
complishes more —  the  moderate  who  will  bargain  to  get 
what  he  wants  or  the  radical  who  will  not?  The  choice  be- 
tween political  reform  and  religious  revolution  had  been 
implicit  in  the  anti-slavery  movement  from  the  beginning. 
The  abolitionist  crusade  in  the  United  States  was  not  simply 
an  appendage  to  Jacksonian  Democracy,  the  religious  corol- 
lary to  a  new  secular  democratic  spirit.  The  anti-slavery 
impulse  was  fundamentally  a  religious  urge  and  the  abolition- 
ist pioneers  were  endowed  with  a  lively  sense  of  their  mission. 
They  saw  their  work  as  nothing  less  than  the  completion  of 
the  great  Protestant  tradition  of  Luther,  Calvin,  Knox,  Ed- 
wards, and  Wesley  — they  were  preparing  the  climax  of  a 
three-hundred-year  Reformation.  They  knew  that  their 
strength  lay  in  the  churches  of  America  and  the  deep-rooted 
religious  sense  of  the  people  which  undercut  the  experience 
of  revolution.  They  had  their  share  of  Jacksonian  optimism, 


A  WOMAN  IN  THE  PULPIT  249 

but  for  them  Manifest  Destiny  carried  a  special  and  an  overtly 
religious  meaning  —  the  destiny  of  a  chosen  people  to  bring 
divine  light  to  the  rest  of  the  world.  The  importance  of  the 
American  political  experiment  as  they  understood  it  lay  in 
the  attempt  to  fuse  religious  truths  and  political  techniques. 
Most  of  them  accepted  the  need  for  popular  democracy  even 
though  they  did  not  like  all  its  consequences.  Gradually,  as 
the  movement  grew,  the  abolitionists  began  to  feel  the  pres- 
sure of  a  hostile  environment  driving  them  to  broaden  the 
scope  of  their  reform  to  include  political  aspirations  and 
economic  motives  in  addition  to  the  original  religious  plat- 
form. 

Thus  the  anti-slavery  crusade,  split  by  the  same  inner  con- 
tradictions as  was  Christianity  itself,  marched  under  the  con- 
flicting standards  of  personal  holiness  and  social  obligation, 
following  first  the  directives  of  an  inner  voice  and  then  the 
dictates  of  common  sense.  The  Anti-Slavery  Society  was 
both  a  church  and  a  sect  —  an  institution  appealing  to  the 
community  at  large,  and  a  gathered  group  of  true  believers. 
The  anti-slavery  formula,  "immediate  emancipation,"  reflected 
this  ambiguity.  Strictly  construed  it  meant  instant  repentance 
and  direct  action;  upon  deliberation,  it  seemed  to  signify 
some  kind  of  political  engagement.  These  alternatives  were 
also  embodied  in  the  personalities  of  the  abolitionists  them- 
selves—in the  shrewd  and  practical  organizers  like  Weld, 
Birney,  and  Stanton,  and  the  zealots  like  Henry  Wright, 
Charles  Burleigh,  and  Garrison. 

It  was  Weld  who  explained  the  philosophy  of  adjustment 
to  the  Grimke  sisters  in  the  hope  of  winning  them  back  from 
Garrison  and  perfectionism.  He  was  in  love  with  Angelina 
but  disturbed  at  the  thought  of  a  wife  who  would  dedicate 
both  their  lives  to  renovating  the  world  at  a  single  stroke.  In 
a  series  of  long  and  painfully  reasonable  letters  he  convinced 


250  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

them  of  the  impracticaHty  of  their  views.  "Since  the  world 
began,"  he  wrote,  "Moral  Reform  has  been  successfully  ad- 
vanced only  in  one  way,  and  that  has  been  by  uplifting  a 
great  self  evident  central  principle  before  all  eyes.  Then  after 
keeping  the  principle  in  full  blaze  till  it  is  admitted  and  ac- 
credited and  the  surrounding  mass  of  mind  is  brought  over 
and  committed  to  it,  then  the  derivative  principles  which 
radiate  in  all  directions  from  this  main  central  principle  have 
been  held  up  in  the  light  of  it  and  the  mind  having  already 
embraced  the  central  principle,  moves  spontaneously  outward 
over  all  its  relations"**  How  did  Luther  give  the  Reformation 
its  irresistible  momentum  but  by  making  the  sale  of  indul- 
gences his  "fulcrum  and  lever"?  How  explain  the  success  of 
reform  in  England  unless  by  the  fact  that  slavery  was  dis- 
cussed for  years  "in  every  corner;  the  whole  English  mind 
was  soaked  with  it."  Reformers  had  to  be  practical,  he  re- 
minded the  sisters,  and  practicality  meant  a  realistic  accom- 
modation of  means  to  ends.  To  demand  a  total  change  in  the 
human  spirit  all  at  once  or  approach  a  society  with  a  panacea 
was  to  reverse  the  order  of  nature  and  misread  history  and 
the  human  condition. 

In  attempting  to  counteract  the  millenarian  spirit  issuing 
from  46  Washington  Street,  Weld  spoke  for  a  growing  num- 
ber of  abolitionists  who  were  resolved  to  make  anti-slavery 
respectable.  Birney,  Stanton,  Wright  and  Joshua  Leavitt  were 
already  thinking  of  organizing  the  political  strength  of  anti- 
slavery  and  were  agreed  on  the  need  to  keep  it  free  from 
heretical  ideas.  It  seemed  to  them  that  Garrison  was  using  his 
prestige  to  destroy  the  movement.  Four  years  ago  they  too 
had  believed  in  the  sufficiency  of  a  moral  appeal  based  on 
the  formulas  of  sin  and  repentance,  but  in  1837  there  was 
need  for  a  few  second  thoughts.  In  the  first  place,  their  faith 
in  the  anti-slavery  tract,  the  petition  and  the  lecture  had  been 


A  WOMAN  IN  THE  PULPIT  251 

shaken  by  an  obvious  lack  of  results.  Without  the  support 
of  the  churches  anti-slavery  was  doomed.  What  was  needed, 
they  realized,  was  an  organized  attempt  to  win  over  all  of  the 
major  denominations.  For  this  reason  they  resented  Garrison's 
attacks  on  the  clergy.  How,  they  asked,  could  anti-slavery 
make  converts  without  relying  on  religious  and  political 
institutions?  Implicit  in  their  argument  was  the  assump- 
tion that  the  only  practicable  way  of  reforming  the  South 
was  by  outvoting  it.  The  logic  of  their  argument  led  directly 
to  the  anti-slavery  political  party  built  with  economic  and 
political  as  well  as  moral  planks.  It  meant  secularizing  aboli- 
tion and  adjusting  it  to  the  role  of  a  political  minority  in  a 
democratic  society.  It  meant  accepting  the  limitations  of 
minority  action  —  compromises,  concessions,  limited  goals  — 
and  working  within  the  institutional  framework  of  American 
democracy,  co-operating  with  churches,  infiltrating  political 
parties  or  creating  new  ones,  educating  people  by  the  slow 
process  of  discussion,  surrendering  absolute  judgments  for 
limited  and  conditional  support,  trading  moral  will  for  votes. 
In  short,  it  meant  the  Liberty  Party,  the  Free  Soil  Party,  and 
ultimately  the  Republican  Party. 

Thus  by  1837  anti-slavery  had  reached  a  crossroad.  One 
road  led  into  the  broad  highway  of  American  political  re- 
form. This  was  the  road  pointed  out  by  Weld,  Birney  and 
Stanton  that  connected  with  the  continuity  and  conservative 
tradition  of  American  life.  The  other  road  was  a  highroad  of 
moral  idealism  which  cut  directly  across  the  conservative 
pattern  of  American  society  to  revolution,  secession  and  civil 
war.  This  was  the  road  Garrison  chose. 

To  a  certain  extent  his  choice  was  dictated  by  the  demands 
of  his  authoritarian  temperament.  What  concerned  him  was 
not  slavery  as  an  institution  but  the  slave  as  a  child  of  God.  If 
his  diagnosis  was  correct,  American  society  was  sick  and 


252  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

needed  the  kind  of  surgery  that  only  a  Christian  radical  could 
perform.  Slavery  was  one  of  the  symptoms  of  approaching 
decline,  but  there  were  others  — the  treatment  of  women, 
the  oppression  of  the  poor,  expansionism  and  a  war  spirit. 
For  all  these  ills  perfectionism  offered  a  total  cure.  But  moral 
rehabilitation  was  too  urgent  a  problem  to  be  left  to  the 
whims  of  weak  men  with  their  corrupt  institutions.  How 
could  he  work  with  ministers  who  accepted  slavery  or  with 
politicians  who  denied  women  their  rights?  How  could  he 
embrace  children  of  darkness  who  reveled  in  sin?  A  true  Chris- 
tian was  compelled  to  come  out  from  among  them,  to  re- 
nounce their  evil  ways  and  escape  everlasting  perdition.  As 
he  reviewed  the  anti-slavery  record,  it  seemed  to  him  that 
abolitionists  had  never  really  been  either  tolerant  or  demo- 
cratic. They  were  servants  of  the  Lord,  not  catchpenny  poli- 
ticians. They  had  spurned  a  compromise  with  the  coloniza- 
tionists,  demolished  Lyman  Beecher's  fanciful  scheme  of 
conciliation,  and  courted  the  most  dangerous  kind  of  un- 
popularity. Why  should  they  balk  at  perfectionism?  Everyone 
admitted  the  evil  of  slavery  was  its  denial  of  Christ  to  the 
black  man.  Then  any  law,  institution,  or  government  which 
refused  to  acknowledge  the  enormity  of  that  sin  would  have 
to  be  destroyed.  The  children  of  light,  he  saw  now,  were 
covenanted  together  for  the  subversion  of  wickedness  and 
the  establishment  of  freedom  — the  absolute  freedom  of  the 
righteous  who  have  escaped  the  bondage  of  sin. 

Garrison's  generation  proceeded  from  the  premise  that 
there  were  no  moral  issues  or  political  differences  fundamental 
enough  to  paralyze  the  energies  of  free  government.  For- 
getting its  revolutionary  heritage,  it  believed  that  moral  ques- 
tions, like  political  interests,  were  matters  for  adjustment, 
and  that  in  exchange  for  their  promise  of  good  behavior 
minorities  might  receive  a  majority  guarantee  of  fair  play. 


A  WOMAN   IN  THE  PULPIT  253 

This  assumption  meant  that  the  American  democracy  func- 
tioned effectively  just  so  long  as  there  were  no  absolute  moral 
judgments  to  clog  the  machinery.  Garrison's  belief  was  one 
of  these  absolutes.  For  him  the  central  fact  of  American  life 
was  the  immorality  of  slavery.  If  he  ever  convinced  the  peo- 
ple of  the  North  of  that  fact,  constitutional  government 
would  collapse.  His  kind  of  agitation  made  civil  war  a  distinct 
possibility  by  disclosing  the  impotence  of  compromise  and 
good  will  in  the  face  of  the  moral  idealism  of  an  elite. 

To  this  perfectionist  elite  he  addressed  his  prospectus  for 
the  eighth  volume  of  the  Liberator,  promising  them  that  slav- 
ery would  still  be  the  "grand  object77  of  his  labors  "though 
not,  perhaps,  so  exclusively  as  before."  He  offered  these 
"honest-hearted77  and  "pure-minded7'  faithful  the  dominion 
of  God: 

...  the  control  of  an  inward  spirit,  the  government  of  love,  and 
.  .  .  the  obedience  and  liberty  of  Christ.  As  to  the  governments  of 
this  world,  whatever  their  titles  or  forms,  we  shall  endeavor  to 
prove,  that  in  their  essential  elements,  and  as  at  present  adminis- 
tered, they  are  all  Anti-Christ;  that  they  can  never,  by  human 
wisdom,  be  brought  into  conformity  with  the  will  of  God;  .  .  . 
that  all  their  penal  enactments  being  a  dead  letter  without  an 
army  to  carry  them  into  effect,  are  virtually  written  in  human 
blood;  and  that  the  followers  of  Jesus  should  instinctively  shun 
their  stations  of  'honor,  power  and  emolument.'21 

For  the  power  of  democratic  institutions  he  now  substituted 
his  old  belief  in  the  absolute  authority  of  the  righteous  man. 

It  was  not  with  righteousness  but  with  women's  votes  that 
he  finally  defeated  his  clerical  enemies  at  a  meeting  in  Wor- 
cester. To  insure  a  majority  he  arranged  for  the  admission  of 
women  delegates  in  the  expectation  that  his  foes  would  at- 
tempt a  vote  of  censure.  As  he  anticipated,  the  ministers  ap- 
pointed a  spokesman  to  present  their  charges,  but  when  he 


254  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

tried  to  speak,  he  was  shouted  down  by  a  host  of  female 
voices  until  Garrison  in  a  magnificent  gesture  came  forward 
to  demand  that  his  opponent  be  heard.  The  convention 
listened  sullenly  to  the  clerical  complaints  only  to  dismiss 
them  and  hurriedly  vote  its  confidence  in  the  continued  lead- 
ership of  William  Lloyd  Garrison.  He  had  won  the  first  trial 
of  strength  in  the  Massachusetts  Society  and  women  had 
made  all  the  difference. 

Meanwhile  Sarah  and  Angelina  Grimke  returned  to  New 
York  and  the  anxious  Weld.  Angelina  had  decided  that  she 
cared  for  him  more  than  for  the  rights  of  women,  and  Sarah, 
less  sure  of  Weld's  wisdom  but  devoted  to  her  sister,  acqui- 
esced in  Angelina's  decision.  In  their  year  with  Garrison  the 
sisters  had  ventured  out  on  the  sea  of  moral  reform  and 
plumbed  its  depth  to  find  in  the  murky  currents  beneath  the 
surface  the  hidden  American  prejudices  against  change.  Garri- 
son had  proved  a  helpful  guide  if  not  an  expert  navigator.  In 
their  turn  the  Grimkes  had  shown  him  that  in  the  emotional 
storms  threatening  his  ship  of  reform  women  were  valuable 
shipmates. 

The  alliance  between  Garrison  and  American  women  was 
hardly  fortuitous.  They  knew  in  a  way  that  men  could  not 
know  what  it  meant  to  be  a  slave,  to  live  under  the  control 
of  another.  This  is  what  Angelina  Grimke  meant  when  she 
said  that  men  ought  to  be  satisfied  with  the  dominion  they  had 
exercised  for  six  thousand  years  "and  that  more  true  nobility 
would  be  manifested  by  endeavoring  to  raise  the  fallen  and 
invigorate  the  weak  than  by  keeping  women  in  subjection."22 
Women  needed  no  elaborate  train  of  reasoning  to  convince 
them  that  slavery  —  the  ownership  of  one  person  by  another 
—  was  inhuman,  and  that  God  had  made  no  distinction  be- 
tween men  and  women  as  moral  beings  any  more  than  he  had 
between  black  and  white.  They  reasoned  that  whatever  it 


A  WOMAN  IN  THE  PULPIT  255 

was  morally  right  for  a  man  to  do  it  was  right  for  a  woman 
to  do.  For  this  reason,  many  of  the  anti-slavery  feminists  like 
the  Grimkes  and  the  Weston  sisters  did  not  bother  with 
proving  the  immorality  of  slavery  —  they  felt  it  as  a  condi- 
tion not  far  removed  from  their  own.  "What  then  can 
woman  do  for  the  slave"  Angelina  Grimke  asked,  "when 
she  is  herself  under  the  feet  of  man  and  shamed  into  silence?" 
For  this  reason  too  they  responded  to  Garrison,  whose 
indictment  of  slavery  was  personal  like  their  own.  Garrison 
also  reacted  to  slavery  experientially  as  a  condition  of  de- 
pendence which  destroyed  the  human  personality  by  sub- 
jecting it  to  the  will  of  another.  His  mother  had  attempted 
such  a  hold  on  him,  and  he  had  grown  to  manhood  in  sub- 
jection to  her  will.  He  too  knew  what  it  was  to  be  owned. 
More  than  once  he  attempted  a  philosophic  analysis  of  slav- 
ery but  without  success,  for  his  real  message  remained  simple 
and  direct  —  slavery  was  inhuman  because  it  killed  the  soul. 
This  was  the  only  argument  he  ever  possessed.  Every  edi- 
torial, every  speech,  every  word  he  ever  wrote  or  spoke  on 
the  slavery  question  was  a  variation  on  this  simple  theme. 
It  was  this  theme  that  established  his  rapport  with  American 
women  and  gave  him  the  confidence  he  needed.  Women 
thrilled  to  his  descriptions  of  the  pure  evil  of  slavery,  and  he 
found  in  their  response  something  which  satisfied  a  deep  need 
in  himself.  Women  offered  him  power. 


The  Politics  of  Perfection 


IN  NOVEMBER,  1837,  Elijah  Lovejoy  was  killed  in  Alton, 
Illinois,  while  defending  his  abolitionist  press  from  a  mob, 
and  anti-slavery  had  its  first  real  martyr.  Garrison  praised 
Lovejoy's  bravery  in  defending  freedom  of  the  press  with 
rifles,  but  he  could  not  condone  an  act  which  threatened  to 
destroy  his  illusion  of  the  peaceful  nature  of  anti-slavery. 
"We  cannot  ...  in  conscience  delay  the  expression  of  our 
regret,  that  our  martyred  coadjutor  and  his  unfaltering  friends 
in  Alton  should  have  allowed  any  provocation,  or  personal 
danger,  or  hope  of  victory,  or  distrust  of  the  protection  of 
Heaven,  to  drive  them  to  take  up  arms  in  self-defense.  They 
were  not  required  to  do  so  either  as  philanthropists  or  chris- 
tians;  and  they  have  certainly  set  a  dangerous  precedent  in 
the  maintenance  of  our  cause."1  Boston  held  a  protest  meet- 
ing in  Faneuil  Hall  which  was  marked  by  the  dramatic  debut 
of  Wendell  Phillips,  who  celebrated  Lovejoy 's  sacrifice  and 
likened  him  to  the  patriots  in  the  American  Revolution.  The 
appearance  of  Phillips  as  a  full-fledged  Garrisonian  empha- 
sized the  growing  appeal  of  anti-slavery  for  Boston  gentlemen 
and  the  need  for  a  platform  designed  to  exploit  it.  Garrison's 
mind,  however,  was  moving  in  the  opposite  direction. 

Love  joy's  death  raised  the  problem  of  combining  anti- 
slavery  and  nonresistance.  How  far  were  abolitionists  obli- 


THE  POLITICS  OF  PERFECTION  257 

gated  to  practice  pacifism?  Garrison  had  no  clear-cut  answer. 
He  assured  his  followers  that  he  had  no  intention  of  con- 
founding perfectionism  and  abolition  or  of  making  nonresist- 
ance  a  test  of  anti-slavery  character.  "If  any  man  shall  affirm 
that  the  anti-slavery  cause,  as  such,  or  any  anti-slavery  society, 
is  answerable  for  our  sentiments  on  this  subject,  to  him  may 
be  justly  applied  the  apostolic  declaration,  'the  truth  is  not 
in  him.'  "  Yet  it  did  seem  that  reformers  were  too  "unsettled" 
on  the  problem  of  peace  and  that  it  was  time  they  declared 
themselves.  If  they  refused  the  right  of  self-defense  to  the 
slave,  how  could  they  justify  their  own  use  of  force?  "And 
if  they  conscientiously  believe  that  the  slaves  would  be  guilt- 
less in  shedding  the  blood  of  the  merciless  oppressors,  let  them 
say  so  unequivocally  —  for  there  is  no  neutral  ground  in  this 
matter,  and  the  time  is  near  when  they  will  be  compelled  to 
take  sides."2  That  time  was  nearer  than  he  thought.  The 
"woman  question,"  as  he  now  called  it,  admitted  of  an  easier 
solution,  since  it  was  not  an  "irrelevant  question"  but  one 
which  was  "perfectly  proper"  to  discuss.  When  he  suggested 
admitting  women  to  the  New  England  Anti-Slavery  Conven- 
tion, however,  he  found  that  a  perfectly  proper  question 
could  also  be  a  vexing  one. 

The  New  England  Anti-Slavery  Convention  met  in  Boston 
on  May  28,  1838.  At  Garrison's  suggestion  the  delegates 
voted  to  invite  women  to  become  members,  and  over  the 
objections  of  the  clergy  who  protested  the  innovation  as 
"injurious  to  the  cause,"  they  elected  Abby  Kelley,  an  out- 
spoken feminist,  to  one  of  the  standing  committees.  The  next 
day  the  Garrisonians  invaded  the  annual  meeting  of  William 
Ladd's  American  Peace  Society  to  save  it  from  "belligerent 
commanders,  generals,  colonels,  majors,  corporals  and  all." 
The  members  of  the  Peace  Society,  who  had  been  warned  of 
Garrison's  intentions,  decided  to  strike  first  by  asserting  the 


258  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

right  of  defensive  war,  but  their  motion  was  swamped  by 
the  invaders,  who  proceeded  to  pass  their  own  resolution  call- 
ing for  a  new  convention  to  overhaul  the  entire  organization 
and  appointing  a  committee  friendly  to  woman's  rights  and 
nonresistance.  On  the  following  day  he  and  his  company 
returned  to  the  Marlboro'  Chapel  and  the  Anti-Slavery  Con- 
vention, where  they  named  another  committee  to  help  draft 
a  call  to  the  proposed  peace  convention.  Once  again  women 
were  invited  to  participate.  Thus  were  the  twin  causes  of 
nonresistance  and  woman's  rights  united  in  what  their  op- 
ponents thought  unholy  matrimony. 

All  that  summer  Henry  Wright  held  preparatory  meetings 
while  Garrison  publicized  the  forthcoming  peace  convention 
in  the  Liberator.  Their  joint  eiforts  resulted  in  a  meeting  at 
the  Marlboro'  Chapel  on  September  18,  1838,  of  one  hun- 
dred and  sixty  delegates,  many  of  them  radical  abolitionists 
of  the  Garrisonian  stamp.  In  addition  to  Garrison,  Henry 
Wright  and  May,  there  was  Wendell  Phillips,  an  interested 
spectator  if  hardly  a  pacifist,  and  Edmund  Quincy,  who  also 
had  reservations  about  perfectionism  but  had  come  anyway. 
At  the  first  session  Garrison  moved  quickly  to  seize  control 
of  the  convention.  As  the  delegates  began  to  answer  the  roll 
call,  he  rose  and  with  a  dim  smile  suggested  that  each  indi- 
vidual write  his  or  her  name  on  a  slip  of  paper,  "thus  mooting 
the  vexed  Voman  question'  at  the  outset."3  There  were  a  few 
dark  looks  from  the  clergy,  but  no  one  challenged  the  motion 
or  the  subsequent  election  of  Abby  Kelley  to  the  business 
committee.  When  the  redoubtable  Abby  took  the  first  oppor- 
tunity to  call  one  of  her  clerical  brethren  on  a  point  of  order, 
however,  the  ministers  realized  the  gravity  of  their  mistake, 
rose  to  request  that  their  names  be  removed  from  the  roll, 
and  hurriedly  withdrew. 

While  the  convention  debated  capital  punishment,  Garrison 


THE  POLITICS  OF  PERFECTION  259 

was  busy  drafting  a  constitution  and  declaration  of  sentiments 
for  a  Non-Resistance  Society  which  would  disavow  all  hu- 
man government.  "Never  was  a  more  'fanatical'  or  'disorgan- 
izing' instrument  penned  by  man,"  he  boasted,  adding  that 
after  a  "deep  and  lively  sensation"  among  the  delegates,  it 
was  adopted  by  a  vote  of  five  to  one.  He  neglected  to  add 
that  the  original  number  of  delegates  had  dwindled  to  less 
than  fifty  and  that  only  twenty-five  of  these  were  willing 
to  sign  the  document.  "All  who  voted  for  it  were  abolition- 
ists," he  noted  with  satisfaction  as  though  to  prove  the  kin- 
ship of  anti-slavery  and  peace. 

The  handful  of  "ultra"  abolitionists  who  signed  Garrison's 
Declaration  of  Sentiments  of  the  Non-Resistance  Society 
witnessed  one  of  the  most  extraordinary  documents  in  the 
history  of  American  Adamic  literature.  "We  cannot  acknowl- 
edge allegiance  to  any  human  government,"  the  declaration 
begins,  "neither  can  we  oppose  any  such  government  by  a 
resort  to  physical  force.  We  recognize  but  one  KING  and 
LAWGIVER,  one  JUDGE  and  RULER  of  mankind.  We  are  bound 
by  the  laws  of  a  kingdom  which  is  not  of  this  world,  the  sub- 
jects of  which  are  forbidden  to  fight,  in  which  Mercy  and 
Truth  are  met  together,  and  Righteousness  and  Peace  have 
kissed  each  other.  We  register  our  testimony,  not  only  against 
all  war,  but  against  all  preparation  for  war."  Garrison  denied 
the  right  of  self-defense  to  individuals  as  well  as  to  nations. 
Until  the  day  when  government  renounced  war  the  society 
would  withhold  its  allegiance.  "As  every  human  government 
is  upheld  by  physical  strength,  and  its  laws  are  enforced 
virtually  at  the  point  of  a  bayonet,  we  cannot  hold  any  office 
which  imposes  upon  its  incumbent  the  obligation  to  compel 
men  to  do  right,  on  pain  of  imprisonment  or  death.  We 
therefore  voluntarily  exclude  ourselves  from  every  legislative 
and  judicial  body,  and  repudiate  all  human  politics,  worldly 


260  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

honors,  and  stations  of  authority/'  Then  came  the  gospel 
justification  for  this  "no-government"  theory: 

The  history  of  mankind  is  crowded  with  evidences  proving  that 
physical  coercion  is  not  adapted  to  moral  regeneration;  that  the 
sinful  dispositions  of  men  can  be  subdued  only  by  love;  that  evil 
can  be  exterminated  from  the  earth  only  by  goodness;  that  it 
is  not  safe  to  rely  upon  an  arm  of  flesh,  upon  man  whose  breath 
is  in  his  nostrils,  to  preserve  us  from  harm;  that  there  is  great 
security  in  being  gentle,  harmless,  long-suif  ering,  and  abundant 
in  mercy;  that  it  is  only  the  meek  who  shall  inherit  the  earth,  for 
the  violent  who  resort  to  the  sword  are  destined  to  perish  by  the 
sword*  Hence,  as  a  measure  of  sound  policy  —  of  safely  to  prop- 
erty, life,  and  liberty  —  of  public  quietude  and  private  enjoyment 
—  as  well  as  on  the  ground  of  allegiance  to  HIM  who  is  KING  or 
LO»B$,  we  cordially  adopt  the  non-resistance  principle;  being 
confident  that  it  provides  for  all  possible  consequences,  will  en- 
sure all  things  needful  to  us,  is  armed  with  omnipotent  power, 
and  must  ultimately  triumph  over  every  assailing  force.4 

Garrison's  Biblical  paraphrase,  hastily  composed  and  as 
quickly  adopted,  proved  too  much  for  the  judicious  Edmund 
Quincy,  who  with  May  insisted  on  the  difference  between 
"the  man-killing,  God-defying  rights  of  power"  and  the 
"innocent  functions  of  government."  "I  grant  that  the  resort 
to  force  is  never  to  be  had,  but  the  injury  to  be  submitted  to 
and  forgiven,"  Quincy  wrote  to  Garrison.  "But  the  ordinary 
and  innocent  business  of  life  can  no  more  be  carried  on  with- 
out these  contrivances  than  it  can  without  money."5  In  his 
view  the  cause  of  peace  did  not  demand  the  sacrifice  of  com- 
mon sense.  Garrison  airily  dismissed  his  friend's  objection  and 
insisted  that  his  Declaration  of  Sentiments  repudiated  nothing 
but  the  spirit  of  violence  in  thought,  word,  and  deed.  "What- 
ever, therefore,  may  be  done  without  provoking  that  spirit  of 


THE  POLITICS  OF  PERFECTION  261 

disinterested  benevolence,  is  not  touched  or  alluded  to  in  the 


instrument."6 


This  was  hardly  what  his  Declaration  of  Sentiments  said, 
but  it  reflected  Garrison's  real  feelings  about  pacifism.  None 
of  his  arguments  bore  close  scrutiny,  since  it  was  the  idea  of 
moral  commitment  rather  than  the  pkn  of  effective  action 
that  concerned  him.  He  prided  himself  on  having  "stirred  up 
a  breeze"  in  the  world  of  reform  and  found  it  gratifying  that 
"a  few,  obscure,  moneyless  unpretending  men  and  women" 
could  have  set  New  England  on  its  ear.  He  hailed  his  own 
achievement  as  possibly  "the  most  important  chapter  in  the 
annals  of  Christianity."  What  did  it  matter  that  only  twenty- 
seven  of  the  original  one  hundred  and  sixty  members  had  the 
courage  to  approve  his  work  —  "the  progress  of  Christianity 
through  the  world,  since  the  time  when  only  twelve  persons 
were  found  willing  to  take  up  its  cross  .  .  .  should  teach 
.  .  .  that  it  is  of  no  consequence  how  many  or  how  few 
subscribed  to  the  principles  and  doctrines  of  the  Declara- 


tion."7 


William  Ladd  disowned  the  Non-Resistance  Society  as  the 
illegitimate  offspring  of  good  intentions  and  poor  logic.  It  was 
not  simply  the  admission  of  women  or  the  anti-Sabbatarian 
views  of  the  nonresistants  that  troubled  him,  though  these 
were  bad  enough,  but  the  whole  concept  of  perfection,  that 
fountain  of  Christian  heresy  which  had  poisoned  the  pro- 
ceedings and  watered  the  seeds  of  schism.  "Many  important 
doctrines  of  the  gospel,"  he  warned,  "may  be  pushed  to  ab- 
surdity, with  considerable  plausibility."8  He  could  not  doubt 
Garrison's  sincerity,  but  there  was  such  a  thing  as  going 
beyond  the  millennium.  He  was  content  to  stop  there. 

Garrison's  harshest  critic  was  Orange  Scott,  a  Methodist 
minister  from  Vermont  who  pointed  out  that  the  new  organ- 
ization was  not  simply  a  peace  society  but  a  "no-government" 


262  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

sect  devoted  to  the  principles  of  civil  disobedience.  It  simply 
would  not  do  for  Garrison  to  argue  that  peace  and  anti-slavery 
were  totally  unrelated,  and  then  in  the  next  breath  boast  that 
all  thoroughgoing  nonresistants  were  also  loyal  abolitionists. 
Such  jumbling  of  the  facts  looked  like  an  attempt  to  give 
character  and  influence  to  the  nonresistance  scheme  by  mak- 
ing it  appear  that  the  abolitionists  favored  it  whereas  most 
of  them  considered  civil  government  indispensable  to  their 
cause.  "Will  you  say,"  he  asked  Garrison,  "but  we  trust  in 
God,  and  commit  our  all  to  him?  As  well  might  you  trust  in 
God  to  edit  and  print  your  paper."  What  would  have  hap- 
pened to  him  in  the  Boston  riot  if  the  mayor  and  his  police 
had  not  intervened?  Besides,  no  one  ever  pretended  that  the 
gospel  of  Christ  contained  all  of  the  Christian  message.  Then 
why  this  "new  and  loose  theory"?  "With  your  views,  I  can- 
not conceive  by  what  authority  you  appoint  officers  in  your 
society.  They  may  not,  indeed,  enforce  obedience  by  penal- 
ties —  but  then  the  idea  of  office  keeps  up  a  distinction,  which 
your  principles  are  calculated  to  level."  How  did  Garrison 
justify  voting  in  state  and  national  elections?  How  could  he 
recommend  the  use  of  petitions  — "if  you  believe  the  very 
existence  of  a  legislative  body  to  be  sin,  how  can  you  connive 
at  its  existence,  by  asking  of  it  legislative  action?"  All  institu- 
tions, Scott  concluded,  must  collapse  before  the  perfectionist 
repudiation  of  human  government.9 

In  his  reply  Garrison  struck  back  at  a  hostile  world.  Scott, 
he  announced,  was  a  notoriously  weak  man  who  once  had 
supported  the  colonizationists.  What  right  had  he  to  speak 
for  anti-slavery?  And  what  did  his  charge  of  anarchy  mean? 
The  end  of  human  government  spelled  not  chaos  but  the 
coming  of  a  new  order.  When  Scott  objected  to  this  "cheap 
way  of  disposing  of  an  argument"  and  withdrew  from  the 
encounter,  Garrison  promptly  dismissed  Scott's  retreat  as 


THE  POLITICS  OF  PERFECTION 263 

"tantamount  to  a  confession,  that  he  erred  in  judgment.''10 
The  abolitionist  reaction  against  perfectionism  continued 
to  spread  both  among  the  New  England  clergy  and  the 
Executive  Committee  in  New  York,  who  foresaw  disaster  in 
the  abandonment  of  politics.  Significantly,  Garrison  was  more 
concerned  with  Scriptural  arguments  than  with  the  practical 
objections  of  the  Executive  Committee.  Reformers,  he  an- 
nounced, mistook  the  divine  purpose  when  they  settled  their 
cause  on  any  single  passage  in  the  Bible  instead  of  the  whole 
of  the  gospel  of  Jesus,  which  taught  total  obedience  to  Christ. 
"The  present  governments  of  the  world  are  the  consequence 
of  disobedience  to  the  commands  of  God.  But  Christ  came 
to  bring  men  back  to  obedience  *by  a  new  and  living  way/ 
When  the  cause  is  taken  away,  must  not  the  effect  cease? 
.  .  .  We  are  for  subverting  the  rotten,  unequal,  anti-Christian 
government  of  man,  and  establishing,  as  a  substitute  that  which 
is  divine."11 

Here  enveloped  in  the  language  of  the  Second  Great 
Awakening  stood  revealed  the  American  Dream.  Garrison's 
perfectionism  was  less  a  theory  or  doctrine  than  a  faith  in 
beginning  again,  a  belief  in  the  "second  chance."  Dismissing 
the  complexities  of  the  question  of  evil  and  promising  eternal 
goodness,  it  spurned  the  past  for  a  perpetually  renewable 
innocence.  His  dream  of  personal  holiness  was  thus  an  interior 
version  of  the  myth  of  the  frontier.  Stripped  of  its  religious 
terminology,  perfectionism  recounted  the  fable  of  the  Amer- 
ican Adam,  the  new  man  in  the  new  world,  free  not  merely 
from  Europe  but  from  the  burden  of  history.  With  its  illu- 
sion of  total  freedom  it  encouraged  a  dangerous  moral  posture 
since  it  released  the  energies  of  a  prophet  —  an  Isaiah  to  the 
nation  —  standing  beyond  time  in  subjection  to  God.  Thus 
the  perfectionist  myth  contained  the  elements  of  personal  and 
social  tragedy:  personal  tragedy  in  that  it  fostered  an  other- 


264         THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

worldliness  that  meant  denying  the  reality  of  experience  — 
it  left  Garrison  reborn  but  cast  up  on  that  childhood  beach 
of  innocence,  a  beach  of  pure  white  but  burning  sands;  social 
tragedy  in  that  it  was  the  source  of  a  profound  disillusion- 
ment. To  regenerate  the  world  Garrison  invented  the  Ameri- 
can saint  and  provided  him  with  a  power  needed  to  make  the 
holy  society,  while  the  actual  materials  for  his  new  world 
were  imperfect  men  who  could  understand  moral  ends  but 
not  peaceful  means. 

In  January,  1839,  came  the  report  that  the  conservative 
wing  of  the  Massachusetts  Society  was  plotting  to  capture  the 
Board  of  Managers  and  dislodge  the  Garrisonians.  They 
planned  to  dispose  of  the  "woman  question"  by  refusing  to 
seat  women  delegates,  and  then  establish  control  over  the 
Liberator  and  bring  Garrison  to  account.  Failing  in  this,  they 
agreed  to  walk  out  and  form  an  organization  of  their  own. 
Quickly  Garrison  sounded  the  alarm  and  issued  a  call  to  all 
his  Unflinching  and  trusty  friends"  to  save  the  Massachusetts 
Society  from  a  plot  to  wrest  control  from  the  founders.  He 
identified  the  ringleaders,  all  of  them  ministers,  directed  by 
the  formidable  Amos  Phelps,  still  a  loyal  abolitionist  but  a 
stanch  advocate  of  male  supremacy  disturbed  by  the  prospect 
of  a  host  of  feminine  anarchists.  The  rebels,  he  knew,  had 
the  support  of  the  Executive  Committee  in  New  York.  Ac- 
cording to  rumors  filtering  into  the  Liberator  office  the  test 
of  strength  would  come  over  the  question  of  establishing  a 
new  paper  under  the  control  of  the  society.  "How  mean,  how 
ungrateful,  how  contemptible  is  conduct  like  this,"  Garrison 
fumed.  "I  should  not  greatly  care  for  it  if  it  had  openly 
manifested  itself  —  but  everything  about  it  has  been  managed 
as  secretly  as  possible."  To  counteract  the  revolutionary 
movement  he  resorted  to  a  stratagem  of  his  own.  He  waited 
until  Phelps  left  Boston  on  business  and  then  hurriedly  called 


THE  POLITICS  OF  PERFECTION  265 

a  meeting  of  the  Board  of  Managers  where  he  suggested  pub- 
lishing a  monthly  periodical  as  the  official  organ  of  the  Massa- 
chusetts Society.  To  give  the  appearance  of  impartiality  the 
board  appointed  the  absent  Phelps  to  the  committee  along 
with  Garrison  and  his  henchman  Quincy. 

Garrison  reported  the  results  to  George  Benson.  "It  hap- 
pened that  he  [Phelps]  did  not  return  in  season  from  Haver- 
hill  to  consult  with  us,  and  we  accordingly  made  our  report 
to  the  Board  ...  to  wit,  that  such  a  monthly  ought  to  be 
printed,  officially,  to  be  called  cThe  Abolitionist,'  and  to  be 
edited  by  a  committee  of  three,  to  be  elected  by  ballot.  This 
report  was  strenuously  opposed  by  Mr-  P's  friend  (Ayres)  on 
the  ground  that  a  weekly  paper  was  called  for,  and  would 
doubtless  be  established  —  that  it  would  be  better  to  defer  the 
whole  matter  to  the  annual  meeting.  .  .  .  The  report  was, 
however,  accepted,  and  Wendell  Phillips,  Edmund  Quincy 
and  myself  were  elected  editors."12  He  had  won  the  first 
round. 

Meanwhile  his  opponents  had  drafted  a  series  of  resolutions 
which  they  lofted  as  trial  balloons  at  local  meetings  through- 
out the  state.  The  first  of  these  was  aimed  directly  at  Garri- 
son's perfectionism:  it  deckred  it  the  duty  of  every  abolition- 
ist "not  to  content  himself  with  merely  refusing  to  vote  for 
any  man  who  is  opposed  to  the  emancipation  of  the  slaver 
but  to  go  to  the  polls  and  throw  his  vote  for  some  man  known 
to  favor  it."  A  second  provided  that  where  an  abolitionist 
had  no  obvious  choice  between  two  candidates  of  opposing 
parties,  "then  he  is  equally  bound  to  go  to  the  polls,  and  vote 
for  some  true  man  in  opposition  to  them  both,  and  to  do  all 
he  can,  lawfully,  to  defeat  their  election."  Both  resolutions 
were  aimed  at  the  practice  of  "scattering"  votes  which  Garri- 
son had  recommended  in  cases  where  there  was  not  a  distinct 
choice  between  candidates.  A  third  resolution  struck  at  the 


266  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

independence  of  the  Liberator  without  naming  it:  "Resolved, 
That  a  weekly  and  ably  conducted  anti-slavery  paper,  which 
shall  take  right,  high,  and  consistent  ground  on  this  subject, 
and  constantly  urge  abolitionists,  as  in  duty  bound,  to  use 
their  political,  as  well  as  their  moral  and  religious,  power  and 
rights  for  the  immediate  overthrow  of  slavery,  is  now  greatly 
needed  in  Massachusetts.  .  .  ,"13  These  resolutions  were 
passed  at  meetings  in  Fitchburg  and  in  Fall  River,  where  the 
Bristol  County  Anti-Slavery  Society  added  a  fourth  resolu- 
tion calling  on  the  Board  of  Managers  to  establish  an  inde- 
pendent paper  as  soon  as  possible. 

As  the  annual  meeting  approached,  both  sides  rallied  their 
forces  and  began  counting  their  votes.  As  usual,  Garrison 
overestimated  the  strength  of  his  enemies.  "My  belief  is,"  he 
wrote  to  George  Benson,  "that  they  will  manage  the  affair 
with  so  much  plausibility,  and  will  have  so  many  able  and 
influential  speakers  on  their  side,  as  to  be  able  to  carry  their 
point."14  If  they  failed,  they  would  surely  secede;  if  they 
triumphed,  it  would  be  a  dark  hour  for  the  cause. 

The  annual  meeting  held  in  the  Marlboro'  Chapel  on 
January  23,  1839,  was  the  largest  and  the  stormiest  in  the 
history  of  the  society.  In  the  chair  sat  Francis  Jackson,  the 
Boston  merchant,  benefactor  and  personal  friend  of  Garrison. 
All  of  the  members  of  the  supposed  cabal  were  present  in- 
cluding Stanton,  who  carried  the  burden  of  the  attack.  Garri- 
son had  rounded  up  a  sizable  delegation  of  Boston's  free 
Negroes  and  an  even  larger  collection  of  women.  First  on  the 
agenda  came  the  reading  of  Garrison's  annual  report,  which 
was  heavily  freighted  with  criticism  of  his  opponents;  but 
before  the  insurgents  could  assail  it,  Wendell  Phillips  moved 
the  immediate  consideration  of  the  so-called  Fitchburg  Reso- 
lutions. The  insurgents  opened  the  debate  with  a  long  and 
involved  indictment.  Then  Henry  Stanton  took  the  floor 


THE  POLITICS   OF  PERFECTION  267 

and  directed  his  attack  at  the  "nullifying  effects"  of  per- 
fectionism on  anti-slavery  and  the  use  of  the  Liberator  to 
spread  this  heresy.  "It  is  not  that  other  subjects  are  intro- 
duced into  the  Liberator"  he  protested,  "  —  it  is  that  such 
other  subjects  are  introduced  —  subjects  so  injurious  to  the 
cause."  Garrison's  peace  views  might  or  might  not  prove 
correct,  but  there  was  no  doubt  that  they  had  lowered  the 
standard  of  abolition.15 

In  his  reply  Garrison  resorted  to  an  old  trick:  to  every 
one  of  Stanton's  charges  he  opposed  new  questions.  Why 
had  Stanton  waited  so  long  to  break  silence?  Why  had  he 
joined  the  "sectarian  party"  in  the  first  place  — to  destroy 
anti-slavery  or  merely  to  discredit  veterans  like  himself?  Who 
could  prove  that  the  Liberator  hurt  the  cause?  Where  was 
the  man  who  could  deny  his  devotion  to  the  slave?  When 
Stanton  tried  to  interrupt,  his  complaints  were  drowned  out 
by  roars  and  cheers  which,  Garrison  boasted,  "spoke  more 
eloquently  and  sincerely  than  the  tongue  of  men  ever  did." 
But  Stanton  was  not  one  to  give  up  easily.  "Let  me  ask  him 
a  question,"  he  demanded  of  the  audience.  "Mr.  Garrison, 
do  you  or  do  you  not  believe  it  a  sin  to  go  to  the  polls?"  After 
some  hesitation  Garrison  answered,  "Sin  for  me!"  Stanton 
repeated  the  question  and  again  came  the  same  answer  — 
it  was  a  sin  for  all  nonresistance  men  to  vote  and  thereby 
recognize  the  claims  of  "carnal"  government.  Beyond  this 
point  Garrison  would  not  go.  Stanton  could  not  get  him  to 
commit  himself  on  the  duty  of  other  abolitionists  or  to  admit 
that  there  was  a  conflict  between  nonresistance  and  abolition. 

In  fact,  Garrison  did  not  need  to  bother  with  arguments. 
He  had  the  votes  and  soon  put  them  to  work.  Stanton  offered 
a  resolution  which  had  technically  been  under  consideration 
from  the  outset  —  "That  every  member  of  an  anti-slavery  so- 
ciety who  refuses,  under  any  pretext,  thus  to  act  morally  or 


268  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

politically,  or  counsels  others  to  such  a  course,  is  guilty  of 
gross  inconsistency,  and  widely  departs  from  the  original 
and  fundamental  principles  of  the  anti-slavery  enterprise." 
This  resolution,  along  with  the  other  Fitchburg  proposals, 
was  indefinitely  postponed  by  an  overwhelming  vote.  When 
Charles'  Torrey  and  Alanson  St.  Glair  questioned  the  legality 
of  a  vote  which  included  "female  members,"  Francis  Jack- 
son rescued  the  Garrisonians  by  ruling  without  appeal  that 
it  was  in  order  for  women  to  vote.  Stanton's  terse  account 
of  the  episode  in  a  letter  to  Birney  told  the  story  of  the  first 
•day's  combat.  "Garrison  found  himself  pushed  to  the  wall 
on  the  non-government  question,  and  with  his  train  bands, 
he  made  a  desperate  push  to  sway  the  Society  over  to  his 
nonresistance  views.  He  succeeded."16 

The  climax  came  on  the  afternoon  of  the  next  day  when 
one  of  the  ministers  managed  to  make  himself  heard  long 
enough  to  introduce  a  milder  version  of  Stanton's  original 
resolution,  simply  declaring  it  the  imperious  duty  of  every 
abolitionist  who  could  conscientiously  do  so  to  go  to  the 
polls.  In  the  course  of  an  angry  quarrel  that  followed  Stanton 
reminded  Garrison  that  in  1834  he  had  supported  Amasa 
Walker  for  Congress  and  had  lectured  some  of  his  colored 
supporters  now  present  on  the  need  to  vote.  "It  is  false!" 
Garrison  shouted.  Stanton,  not  to  be  caught  unawares,  pulled 
out  a  sheaf  of  quotations  from  the  Liberator  and  requested 
the  right  to  read  them.  By  now  Garrison  knew  he  was 
trapped,  and  so  did  his  followers,  for  they  refused  to  allow 
Stanton  to  proceed.  The  next  moment  they  accepted  Garri- 
son's counterresolution  providing  that  "those  abolitionists  who 
feel  themselves  called  upon,  by  a  sense  of  duty,  to  go  to  the 
polk,  and  yet  purposely  absent  themselves  from  the  polls 
whenever  an  opportunity  is  presented  to  vote  for  a  friend  of 
die  slave  —  or  who,  when  there,  follow  their  party  predilec- 


THE  POLITICS  OF  PERFECTION  269 

tions  to  the  abandonment  of  their  abolition  principles  —  are 
recreant  to  their  high  professions,  and  unworthy  of  the 
name  they  bear."  Then  the  convention  voted,  180  to  24,  to 
accept  Garrison's  annual  report,  which  advocated  woman's 
rights,  censured  the  clerical  party  in  Massachusetts,  recom- 
mended nonresistance,  and  criticized  political  action. 

"The  Board  deny  that  it  is  competent  for  any  anti-slavery 
society  by  its  votes  or  through  its  organs,  to  arraign  either 
the  political  or  religious  views  of  its  members."  Such  was  the 
conclusion  to  Garrison's  annual  report.  "It  may  with  no 
more  propriety  decide  that  one  man  is  morally  bound  to  cast 
a  vote  at  the  polls,  than  that  another  man  is  morally  bound  to 
unite  himself  to  a  church."  On  the  subject  of  political  action, 
he  declared,  there  were  many  conflicting  opinions;  all  that 
any  society  might  rightfully  do,  therefore,  was  to  entreat  its 
members  to  abide  by  their  principles.  No  organization  pos- 
sessed coercive  power  over  its  membership.  With  this  provi- 
sion Garrison  fastened  to  abolition  a  new  orthodoxy  while 
posing  as  the  defender  of  minority  rights.  The  Massachusetts 
Society  was  now  his,  but  in  winning  control  of  it  he  had 
stripped  it  of  eifective  power.  "But  the  point  is,"  Stanton 
remarked  dolefully  to  Birney,  "the  Society  hauled  down  its 
flag  and  run  [sic]  up  the  crazy  banner  of  the  non-govern- 
ment heresy,  and  we  had  to  rally  around  or  be  ostracized." 
Yet  even  he  had  to  admire  the  ease  with  which  Garrison  had 
crushed  the  revolt  though  he  admitted  that  "the  split  is  wide 
and  can  never  be  closed  up." 

Defeated  in  Boston,  the  insurgents  appealed  to  the  Execu- 
tive Committee  in  New  York,  which  was  busy  with  its 
own  problems.  The  split  in  the  Massachusetts  Society  was 
only  part  of  the  gradual  deterioration  of  the  fabric  of 
American  anti-slavery  in  the  year  1839.  There  were  a  number 
of  causes  for  the  loss  of  power  and  prestige  of  the  national 


2J&  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

organization.  First  of  all,  revivals  and  the  spirit  of  Christian 
reform  were  on  the  wane.  When  the  national  society  was 
founded,  revivalism  had  been  at  its  peak;  in  1839,  following 
a  depression  and  a  conservative  reaction  against  perfectionist 
theology,  the  churches  were  withdrawing  their  support  from 
reform  enterprises  and  interdenominational  cooperation  was 
disappearing.  Then,  too,  sectional  politics  and  the  civil 
liberties  issue  publicized  the  work  of  the  society  but  at  the 
cost  of  a  national  program  with  national  goals.  By  1839  the 
American  Anti-Slavery  Society  was  only  a  name.  Still  an- 
other reason  for  the  decline  of  the  national  society  was  the 
petition  strategy  which  called  for  decentralizing  control  and 
dispersing  functions  to  local  societies.  The  money  to  run 
these  societies  was  being  kept  at  home.  As  the  competition  for 
funds  grew  sharper,  the  national  society  gradually  lost  con- 
trol of  money-raising  within  the  states  until  by  1838  every 
state  auxiliary  had  closed  its  territory  to  the  society's  agents. 
In  Massachusetts,  where  Garrison's  heresies  aggravated  the 
financial  difficulty,  the  state  society  forced  the  Executive 
Committee  to  accept  a  system  of  voluntary  pledges  and  then 
neglected  to  fill  its  own  quota.  It  was  obvious  that  the  Garri- 
sonians,  hostile  to  political  action  and  displeased  with  inter- 
ference from  New  York,  had  no  intention  of  meeting  their 
obligations  until  they  could  control  the  national  society.  Ac- 
cordingly, in  February,  1839,  the  committee  decided  to  force 
the  issue  by  notifying  the  Massachusetts  Board  of  Managers 
of  its  intention  to  drop  the  quota  system  and  send  its  own 
agents  back  into  the  state.  Straightway  Garrison  sensed  a 
challenge  to  his  independence  and  dispatched  Wendell  Phil- 
lips to  New  York  to  kill  the  project.  "You  will  see  by  the  last 
Liberator"  he  wrote,  "that  a  collision  has  taken  place  be- 
tween the  New  York  Executive  Committee  and  our  Board. 
How  it  will  terminate  I  know  not.  This  is  a  sad  spectacle  to 


THE  POLITICS  OF  PERFECTION  271 

present  to  the  enemies  of  our  holy  cause;  but  be  the  responsi- 
bility upon  the  heads  of  those  who  are  attempting  to  lord  it 
over  the  consciences  of  the  nonresisting  abolitionists."17 

He  quickly  dropped  the  posture  of  self-defense  when  the 
Executive  Committee  sent  Stanton  and  Lewis  Tappan  to  ar- 
gue its  case  before  the  quarterly  meeting  of  the  Massachu- 
setts Society  in  March.  Once  again  he  laid  his  plans  carefully, 
assembling  his  partisans  from  all  over  the  state  and  assuring 
them  that  the  meeting  would  decide  "whether  our  sacred 
enterprise  shall  continue  under  the  management  of  its  old 
friends,  or  be  given  up  to  the  control  of  politicians  and 


sectaries."18 


Tappan  and  Stanton  came  prepared  to  discuss  more  than 
finances.  In  February  a  prospectus  had  circulated  in  Massa- 
chusetts which  announced  that  a  new  abolitionist  newspaper 
was  "imperiously  demanded."  The  members  of  the  Executive 
Committee  now  hoped  to  bring  Garrison  to  terms  by  threat- 
ening to  support  the  project.  Their  hopes  were  short-lived. 
Garrison  and  his  lieutenants  had  done  their  work  so  well 
that  on  the  test  vote  over  the  proposal  to  ignore  the  new  rul- 
ing of  the  Executive  Committee  the  New  Yorkers  were 
soundly  beaten,  142  to  23.  The  Executive  Committee  now 
knew  what  it  had  long  suspected,  that  Garrison  could  not 
be  beaten  in  Massachusetts  and  that  their  only  hope  was  a 
new  state  society.  This  was  precisely  the  conclusion  already 
reached  by  Garrison's  conservative  opponents  in  Massachu- 
setts, all  of  whom  were  ready  for  a  "new  organization,"  as 
they  called  it.  Henry  Stanton  and  Elizur  Wright  stood  ready 
to  help  them  reorganize  abolition  there  on  a  political  basis. 
Cheered  by  these  reports  of  dissatisfaction  with  Garrison, 
the  members  of  the  Executive  Committee  looked  forward  to 
a  new  order  in  Massachusetts  which  would  help  sustain  the 
old  cause.  Before  their  hopes  were  realized  Garrison  and  his 


272  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

forces  raided  their  New  York  headquarters  and  almost  seized 
command  of  their  society. 

Of  the  one  hundred  and  eighteen  Massachusetts  delegates 
to  the  annual  meeting  of  the  American  Anti-Slavery  Society 
in  May,  Garrison  controlled  nearly  three-fourths.  He  brought 
with  him  all  his  lieutenants  —  Phillips,  Loring,  Oliver  John- 
son, Henry  Wright,  Samuel  Philbrick,  Edmund  Quincy,  and 
a  newcomer  named  John  A.  Collins,  together  with  three 
women,  Abby  Kelley,  Thankful  Southwick  and  Anne  War- 
ren Weston.  These  he  counted  on  to  keep  the  faithful  in  line. 
Ten  additional  votes  from  Rhode  Island  and  a  sprinkling  from 
Vermont  gave  him  nearly  a  hundred  votes  in  New  England 
alone.  This  number,  added  to  his  strength  among  the  Pennsyl- 
vania Quakers  and  upstate  New  York  delegates,  could  con- 
ceivably give  him  a  majority  in  the  convention,  especially  if 
his  women  supporters  were  allowed  to  vote.  It  was  not  sur- 
prising, then,  that  the  very  first  issue  confronting  the  four 
hundred  and  thirty-five  delegates  was  the  motion  put  by  the 
opponents  of  woman's  rights  that  aour  roll  call  be  made  up, 
according  to  former  usage,  and  men,  duly  appointed,  shall 
constitute  the  roll."  Not  until  the  afternoon  of  the  next  day, 
after  twelve  hours  of  bickering,  did  the  crucial  vote  come  on 
the  following  proposition:  "Resolved  that  the  roll  of  this 
meeting  be  made  by  placing  thereon  the  names  of  all  persons, 
male  and  female,  who  are  delegates  from  any  auxiliary 
society. "  With  roughly  one-quarter  of  the  delegates'  votes 
not  recorded,  the  resolution  was  adopted  by  a  vote  of  180 
to  140.  A  breakdown  of  the  voting  (see  top  of  next  page) 
showed  where  Garrison's  strength  lay. 

Garrison  promptly  set  his  delegation  to  work.  At  his 
suggestion  they  appointed  a  special  committee  to  make  recom- 
mendations to  the  Executive  Committee.  The  special  com- 
mittee quickly  urged  reconsideration  of  all  the  passages  in 


THE  POLITICS  OF  PERFECTION  273 

Ayes  Nays 

Maine  i  6 

New  Hampshire  i  5 

Vermont  5  4 

Massachusetts  72  25 

Rhode  Island  10  i 

Connecticut  14  1 1 

New  York  45  76 

New  Jersey  9  ^ 

Pennsylvania  21  7 

Delaware  —  i 

Ohio  2  — 

Illinois  —  2 

TOTAL  1 80  I4019 

the  annual  report  dealing  unfavorably  with  political  action. 
Then  he  presented  a  resolution  to  the  general  meeting  which 
declared  that  "in  the  original  formation  of  this  society,  it 
was  not  contemplated,  nor  is  it  now  desired  to  exclude  from  its 
membership  any  persons,  on  account  of  their  being  pre- 
vented by  conscientious  scruples,  from  participating  in  all 
the  measures  which  the  mass  of  the  society  either  originally 
or  subsequently,  may  have  contemplated  for  the  advancement 
of  the  Anti-Slavery  cause."20 

The  leadership  of  the  political  abolitionists  in  the  society 
had  fallen  to  the  taciturn,  hard-driving  James  Birney,  now  its 
secretary  and  chief  polemicist.  For  some  time  Birney  had 
contemplated  shifting  the  anti-slavery  cause  from  religious 
to  political  grounds,  and  now  he  rallied  his  supporters  to 
meet  the  perfectionist  challenge.  Garrison's  calculated  piece 
of  ckculocution  somehow  survived  the  attacks  of  Birney, 
but  he  was  unable  to  defeat  his  rival's  counterproposal  maMng 
k  the  duty  of  every  abolitionist  to  vote.  Birney's  resolution 


2y*  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

was  passed  by  a  vote  of  84  to  77  only  after  many  of  the 
Garrisonians,  worn  out  by  the  four-day  wrangle,  had  re- 
turned to  Boston.  He  was  still  strong  enough,  however,  to 
defeat  a  proposal  for  sending  a  money-raising  expedition  to 
England.  His  motives  were  made  clear  later  in  the  spring 
when  the  New  England  Convention  voted  to  send  Wendell 
Phillips  on  a  similar  mission.  The  real  victory,  however,  lay 
in  the  admission  of  women.  He  still  lacked  the  votes  to  man- 
age a  repudiation  of  politics,  but  if  he  returned  next  year 
with  enough  women  delegates,  the  story  might  well  be 
different. 

The  final  act  of  the  drama  opened  two  weeks  later  at 
the  New  England  Convention,  where  a  handful  of  conserva- 
tive diehards  made  one  last  attempt  to  settle  with  him.  Once 
more  the  woman  question  was  introduced  by  Phelps  and 
quickly  disposed  of  by  the  Garrisonians.  Weary  from  months 
of  fruitless  campaigning,  Phelps  and  Company  withdrew  to 
form  their  own  organization,  the  Massachusetts  Abolition 
Society,  whose  unofficial  motto  read  "For  Men  Only."  After 
they  left,  the  Garrisonians  pronounced  the  formation  of  the 
new  society  "inexpedient"  and  "hostile  to  the  genius  of  aboli- 
tion"; declared  that  the  constitution  of  the  national  society, 
contrary  to  Birney's  elaborate  demonstration,  did  not  enjoin 
voting;  and  closed  their  session  after  refusing  a  peace  con- 
ference with  the  secessionists.21 

The  Massachusetts  Abolition  Society  was  formed  for  the 
ostensible  purpose  of  freeing  anti-slavery  from  its  encum- 
brances—perfectionism, nonresistance,  and  woman's  rights 
—  but  it  was  only  the  last  of  these  heresies  on  which  the  new 
society  could  agree.  The  politically  minded  members  of  the 
Executive  Committee  in  New  York  waited  for  a  sign  of  life 
in  the  new  organization  only  to  find  that  the  society  was 
first  and  last  an  anti-Garrison  society.  However  notorious 


THE  POLITICS   OF  PERFECTION  275 

their  former  leader  had  become  by  1839,  he  still  embodied 
the  spirit  of  abolition  in  New  England  and  could  marshal 
the  supporters  to  prove  it.  Eventually  any  group  opposed  to 
him  would  have  to  stand  on  a  political  platform.  Such  was  the 
conclusion  already  reached  by  Birney  and  his  friends,  who 
now  sought  to  instruct  the  Massachusetts  Abolition  Society 
in  the  duties  of  voting.  In  an  all-out  attack  on  the  "no- 
government"  heretics  Birney  leveled  his  sights  on  the  vote. 
How  could  abolitionists  influence  politics  except  by  voting? 
What  was  the  sense  in  petitioning  Congress  to  abolish  slavery 
and  then  refusing  to  elect  men  who  would  begin  the  work? 
How  could  Garrison  oppose  political  action  and  still  claim 
to  be  an  abolitionist?  Better  that  he  withdraw  from  the  society 
and  seek  the  destruction  of  law  and  order  elsewhere.22 

Garrison  professed  himself  shocked  with  Birney's  "truth- 
less, slanderous,  cruel"  accusations  —  "caricatures  of  the 
pacific  precepts  of  the  Gospel  —  phantasms  of  a  distorted  im- 
agination." He  particularly  objected  to  the  phrase  "no-govern- 
ment" because  the  nonresistants,  he  asserted,  held  religiously 
to  a  government  of  heaven  if  not  of  men.  He  proceeded  to 
make  the  dubious  distinction  between  petitions  and  the  vote 
on  the  grounds  that  petitions  involved  influencing  a  legislative 
body  already  in  existence,  while  voting  meant  creating  that 
body.  Nonresistants  could  uphold  the  right  of  petition,  there- 
fore, and  still  refuse  to  vote.  The  founders  of  the  American 
Society,  he  asserted,  at  no  time  intended  to  make  voting  a 
duty,  and  Birney's  remark  that  he  himself  had  voted  for 
Amasa  Walker  not  five  years  ago  was  entirely  beside  the 
point.  "I  humbly  conceive  that  it  concerns  no  man,  or  body 
of  men,  to  know  how  many  or  how  few  times  I  have  voted 
since  the  adoption  of  the  A.S.  Constitution,  or  whether  I 
have,  or  have  not,  changed  my  views  of  politics  within  a 
few  years."  Birney  would  do  better  to  prove  his  own  case 


276  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

first.  Suddenly,  in  a  bewildering  contradiction,  he  said  that 
he  expected  to  see  political  action  strengthened  and  purified 
"in  exact  proportion  to  the  prevalence  of  the  great  conserva- 
tive doctrines  of  nonresistance."  Perfectionism  would  work  to 
pour  new  lifeblood  into  the  veins  of  abolition  —  "to  give  it 
extraordinary  vigor  —  to  clothe  it  with  new  beauty  —  to  in- 
spire it  with  holier  feelings  —  to  preserve  it  from  corruption 
—  though  not  necessarily  connected  with  it."  If  Birney  failed 
to  fathom  his  reasoning  let  him  be  silent  until  he  could! 

At  this  point  William  Goodell,  now  the  editor  of  the 
Friend  of  Man,  joined  the  debate.  Like  Birney,  he  failed  to 
see  how  Garrison's  nonresistance  could  free  the  slave.  On 
the  contrary,  he  was  convinced  that  perfectionism  unwittingly 
pkyed  into  die  hands  of  its  enemies.  By  refusing  to  vote,  the 
Garrisonians  only  strengthened  the  hold  of  the  Whig  and 
Democratic  parties.  In  their  leader's  nonsensical  doctrines 
radical  and  reactionary  extremes  joined  to  thwart  the  at- 
tempt of  intelligent  abolitionists  to  wipe  out  slavery  with  the 
vote. 

To  counter  Goodell's  charge  Garrison  was  forced  to  re- 
sort to  the  doctrine  of  minority  rights.  There  never  would 
have  been  any  trouble,  he  explained,  if  the  political  aboli- 
tionists had  not  tried  to  proscribe  the  nonresistants.  He  cared 
very  little  for  the  resolutions  which  conflicted  with  his  own 
view  of  politics;  but  he  would  never  fail  to  protest  against 
any  and  every  attempt  to  make  the  anti-slavery  movement  an 
"engine  of  despotism"  subservient  to  the  commands  of  cleri- 
cal politicians  and  sectarian  bigots.  Far  from  encouraging 
corrupt  politics,  the  nonresistants  were  greatly  pleased  to  see 
that  men  who  had  hitherto  been  spellbound  by  the  sorcery 
of  political  formulas  were  finally  casting  independent  votes. 
"We  feel  a  high  respect  for  such  men:  such  conduct  leads 
us  to  Imps  for  still  better  fruits."  After  all,  the  difference 


THE  POLITICS  OF  PERFECTION  277 

between  abolitionists  and  nonresistants  was  only  one  of 
degree:  the  abolitionists  aimed  at  freeing  the  Negro,  non- 
resistants  at  delivering  the  whole  world.  Let  nonresistance 
prevail  and  instead  of  having  to  go  through  a  long  and  slow 
process  of  electioneering  to  find  the  right  men  to  free  the 
slaves  —  "instead  of  having  to  wait  weeks  and  months  until 
the  question  of  repeal  has  been  discussed"  —  judges,  legisla- 
tors and  all  the  people  would  immediately  "show  their  deeds" 
and  confess,  "and  bring  all  the  statute  books  togethery  and 
burn  them  before  all  men."23  The  old  vision  of  a  righteous 
but  jealous  God  still  haunted  him,  a  God  who  needed  not 
man  with  his  petty  contrivances.  As  once  with  the  house  of 
Israel,  the  Lord  would  covenant  with  the  American  people 
and  inscribe  His  laws  in  their  minds,  His  commands  in  their 
hearts. 

In  the  summer  of  1839  the  reaction  against  Garrison 
deepened.  The  Massachusetts  Abolition  Society  began  to 
send  its  agents  to  local  and  county  conventions,  and  several 
times  Garrison  had  to  dispatch  a  contingent  of  Bostonians 
to  deal  with  the  invaders.  At  a  National  Abolition  Conven- 
tion held  in  Albany  in  July  he  was  outvoted  both  on  non- 
resistance  and  woman's  rights  and  presented  with  the  title 
"prince  of  disorganizes."  Then  the  Executive  Committee 
in  New  York  pronounced  its  sentence  of  excommunication. 
In  a  circular  sent  to  its  agents  and  auxiliaries  the  committee 
announced  that  their  society,  "recognizing  the  rightful  power 
and  binding  obligation  of  the  government  to  interpose  its 
arm  for  the  delivery  of  the  slave  based  its  plans  of  operation 
upon  the  Imvfulness  of  political  action.  .  .  *  But,  within  a  few 
months  past,  a  sentiment  has  been  promulgated  in  oui:  ranks* 
maintained  too,  by  some  who  have  been  among  our  earliest 
and  most  efficient  friends,  denying  die  rightfulness  of  all 
human  government,  and  consequently  denying  it  to  be  a 


278  THE  LIBERATOR:    WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

duty  to  vote  for  men  to  be  rulers  who  will  employ  the 
prerogatives  of  government  for  the  abolition  of  slavery.  The 
Anti-Slavery  Society  can  afford  no  countenance  to  such 
doctrines."24 

While  Garrison  was  busy  fending  off  his  critics,  a  group 
of  abolitionists  under  the  leadership  of  Myron  Holley,  the 
anti-slavery  editor  of  the  Rochester  Freeman,  met  in  Cleve- 
land to  consider  his  proposition  to  nominate  a  third  ticket 
for  the  next  Presidential  election.  When  his  proposal  was 
defeated,  Holley  returned  to  New  York  to  call  a  local  con- 
vention at  Warsaw,  where  he  won  over  enough  advocates  of 
political  action  to  nominate  Birney  and  Dr.  Julius  LeMoyne 
on  an  anti-slavery  ticket.  The  third  party  movement  was 
under  way. 

The  Executive  Committee  was  badly  split  on  the  question 
of  political  action.  On  the  one  hand,  Elizur  Wright  and 
Joshua  Leavitt  wholeheartedly  favored  the  idea  of  an  aboli- 
tionist political  party.  Stanton  and  Birney,  while  they  were 
committed  to  the  vote,  doubted  that  a  third  party  could 
succeed.  On  their  side,  Lewis  Tappan,  Weld,  and  Gamaliel 
Bailey,  the  editor  of  the  Philanthropist,  vehemently  opposed 
the  idea  of  a  third  party  devoted  entirely  to  abolition.  Thus 
Garrison  was  not  alone  in  assailing  the  third  party  move- 
ment in  the  autumn  of  1839,  and  much  of  his  ammunition 
was  supplied  by  Western  abolitionists  who  still  thought  as 
he  did. 

Immediate  help  from  the  West  came  from  a  different 
source.  In  November  he  received  a  letter  written  from 
Holley's  Cleveland  convention  which  referred  to  a  "con- 
fidential" communication  from  Elizur  Wright  to  Henry 
Stanton.  The  unknown  spy  quoted  excerpts  from  the  pur- 
loined letter  in  which  Wright  complained  of  the  wretched 
mismanagement  of  the  Massachusetts  Abolition  Society. 


THE  POLITICS   OF  PERFECTION  279 

Wright  had  come  to  Massachusetts  to  edit  the  new  society's 
paper,  the  Abolitionist,  and  already  was  proving  more  than 
an  editorial  match  for  Garrison.  But  Wright  was  discouraged 
by  the  apathy  of  the  Massachusetts  Abolition  Society,  which 
was  so  concerned  with  Garrison's  heresies  that  it  was  neglect- 
ing the  slavery  question.  In  his  letter  to  Stanton  in  Cleveland 
he  said  he  hoped  the  convention  would  take  "a  decided  step 
towards  Presidential  candidates."  "Our  labor  will  be  more 
than  half  lost  without  them/'  he  continued.  "The  South  can 
outbid  us,  and  hence  she  will  buy  up  both  political  parties, 
as  to  national  politics,  ad  infinitum"  If  the  abolitionist  candi- 
dates were  of  "good  stuff,"  the  whole  cause  would  gain 
regardless  of  the  number  of  votes  they  won.  Then  Wright 
turned  to  the  situation  in  Massachusetts.  "One  thing  /  know. 
Unless  you  do  take  such  a  step,  OUR  NEW  ORGANIZATION  HERE 
is  A  GONE  CASE.  It  has  been,  inter  nos,  SHOCKINGLY  MIS- 
MANAGED. Everything  has  been  made  to  turn  upon  the 
woman  question.  The  political  has  been  left  to  fall  out  of 
sight."  It  would  not  do  for  Massachusetts,  under  the  cir- 
cumstances, to  make  the  first  move,  which  would  have  to 
come  from  the  national  society,  and  very  soon.  "You  cer- 
tainly see  this,"  Wright  reminded  Stanton  in  conclusion. 
"Take  my  solemn  assurance  that  IT  is  LIFE  AND  DEATH  WITH 


us."25 


Garrison  saw  the  value  of  the  "pilfered  letter,"  as  Wright 
called  it,  in  discrediting  the  new  state  society.  He  demanded 
that  Wright  divulge  its  contents,  and  when  Wright  did  so 
in  the  pages  of  the  Abolitionist,  he  copied  it  for  his  own 
readers.  "Ordinarily,"  he  explained  in  his  remarks,  "private 
correspondence  should  be  considered  sacred;  but  not  when 
...  it  is  found  to  relate  not  to  particular  persons,  but  to 
a  great  public  enterprise,  involving  the  rights  and  liberties 
of  millions  of  the  human  race."  Wright,  he  lamented,  was 


280  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

sadly  altered  and  his  newspaper  lost  to  all  principle.  To 
follow  him  and  the  Massachusetts  Abolition  Society  would  be 
to  descend  to  the  depths  of  debased  and  venal  bargainings. 
"The  pseudo-Abolition  Society  must  go  down  'to  vile  dust 
from  whence  it  sprang,  Unwept,  unhonored,  and  unsung.'  "2e 
His  editorial  was  both  judgment  and  prophecy:  without 
needed  support  from  the  politicians,  the  Massachusetts  Aboli- 
tion Society  died  quietly  while  the  Liberator,  with  a  thou- 
sand new  subscriptions,  continued  to  play  the  politics  of  no- 
government. 


15. 

Triumph  of  the  Saints 


THE  YEAR  1840  brought  disillusion  to  the  abolitionists 
and  disaster  to  their  organization.  Garrison's  decision 
to  capture  the  national  society  split  the  anti-slavery  coalition 
into  two  warring  factions,  neither  of  which  was  able  to -mus- 
ter the  manpower  or  find  the  funds  to  keep  the  militant  anti- 
slavery  spirit  of  the  Thirties  alive.  His  enemies,  embittered 
by  the  coup  cFetat,  abandoned  the  society  to  discover  in  the 
light  of  reappraisal  that  their  objective  lay  in  politics  and  the 
vote.  When  the  smoke  of  battle  lifted  over  the  annual  meet- 
ing of  1840,  Garrison  found  himself  in  control  of  an  organiza- 
tion that  had  lost  half  its  personnel  and  all  its  power,  an 
instrument  useful  now  only  as  a  sounding  board  for  his  dis- 
sonant prophecies  of  Armageddon. 

Disorder  also  ruled  the  domestic  scene  as  Garrison's 
debts  kept  pace  with  his  growing  family.  His  second  son, 
William,  was  born  in  1838,  and  another  son,  Wendell,  two 
years  later.  In  September,  1839,  he  rented  a  house  in  Cam- 
bridgeport,  "very  neat  in  its  appearance,"  though  hardly 
more  spacious  than  the  Boston  quarters.  Yet  it  was  cheap  — 
two  hundred  and  fifty  dollars  a  year  —  a  factor  that  weighed 
heavily  with  him.  His  ever-faithful  man  Friday,  Oliver 
Johnson,  concerned  as  always  for  the  welfare  of  his  chief, 
promised  to  board  with  them  and  help  repair  the  family 


282  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

budget;  but  the  pile  of  unpaid  bills  kept  reminding  Garri- 
son of  the  chaotic  state  of  his  finances.  "At  present,  I  am 
greatly  embarrassed  for  want  of  money,"  he  confessed  to 
George  Benson.  One  hundred  and  fifty  dollars  of  his  salary 
was  still  owing,  and  the  Massachusetts  Society  had  yet  to 
pay  him  his  expenses  for  the  current  year*  The  cost  of  moving 
and  furnishing  the  new  house  had  drained  the  last  of  his 
resources.  To  meet  immediate  expenses  he  borrowed  a 
hundred  dollars  from  Francis  Jackson  and  another  hundred 
from  Samuel  Philbrick,  the  retired  Quaker  merchant  and 
abolitionist.  "They  will  expect  ine  to  fulfill  my  word,"  he 
explained  to  Benson.  "My  object  in  writing  to  you  is  to  know 
whether  you  can  borrow  that  amount  for  me,  so  as  to  give 
me  more  time  to  'turn  myself.'  "a  He  never  doubted  that  the 
Lord  would  provide,  but  it  seemed  sometimes  that  He  was  an 
unconscionably  long  time  getting  around  to  it. 

Part  of  the  borrowed  money  went  to  care  for  his  brother. 
After  twenty  years  at  sea  James  had  suddenly  appeared  in  the 
Boston  Navy  Yard,  still  an  alcoholic  and  now  mortally  ill 
with  cancer  of  the  spine.  Garrison  secured  a  leave  of  absence 
for  him  and  set  about  getting  him  discharged  from  the  Navy, 
an  unpleasant  job  that  involved  asking  favors  of  Congress- 
man Caleb  Gushing.  Gushing  proved  helpful,  however,  and 
"poor  James"  was  released  and  came  home  to  Cambridge- 
port.  At  Lloyd's  suggestion  he  began  writing  his  memoirs, 
a  nightmarish  account  of  his  boyhood  fall  from  grace  and 
his  years  aboard  ships  of  the  line  in  the  United  States  Navy. 
His  descriptions  of  the  inhumanity  aboard  ship  and  on  the 
beach  — of  tyrannical  officers  and  drunken  fights,  floggings 
and  depravity  —  present  a  remarkable  picture  of  life  in  the 
nineteenth-century  American  Navy.  Also  at  his  brother's 
urgingi  James  filled  his  confession  with  a  bitter  reflection 
on  the  "Fatal  Poison."  "That  I  am  a  doomed  man  is  certain, 


TRIUMPH  OF   THE  SAINTS 283 

and  can  not  avoid  Fate,"  he  admitted,  adding  perhaps  for 
Lloyd's  benefit,  "and  none  but  God,  and  my  self,  can  tell 
what  I  have  suffered  in  body  and  in  mind  for  my  rashness." 

Life  with  his  virtuous  brother  must  have  been  hard  for 
James,  who  found  the  abolitionists'  unctuous  manners  and 
"stentorian  lungs"  too  much  for  his  liking.  Lloyd  expected 
gratitude,  and  James  tried  hard  to  be  grateful  for  the  op- 
pressive kindliness  and  the  sermonizing.  Helen  he  came  to  love 
deeply  before  he  died,  and  perhaps  it  was  she  who  reconciled 
him  to  the  misery  of  his  last  two  years.  Lloyd,  his  memories 
of  boyhood  already  dim,  saw  only  a  pathetic  example  of  the 
evils  of  liquor  in  his  wasted  brother.  "Earnest  is  my  prayer 
to  God,  that  he  may  be  led  to  review  his  past  life,"  he  wrote 
to  his  wife,  "and  to  perceive  how  widely  he  has  departed 
from  the  path  of  rectitude,  to  the  ruin  of  his  immortal  soul."2 
Repentance  and  reconciliation  —  the  old  prescription  for 
salvation.  James,  in  his  turn,  might  have  prescribed  humility 
for  his  brother. 

The  financial  troubles  of  the  Liberator  were  solved  tem- 
porarily by  terminating  Knapp's  contract  as  printer.  Knapp 
was  inefficient  and  had  lately  taken  to  drink,  but  he  was  also 
an  original  partner  who  had  helped  sustain  the  paper  through 
seven  lean  years.  Over  his  protests  the  Board  of  Managers 
appointed  a  committee  consisting  of  Francis  Jackson,  Ellis 
Gray  Loring,  Edmund  Quincy,  and  Samuel  Philbrick  to 
come  to  terms  with  him  and  henceforth  manage  the  finances. 
After  a  consultation  with  Garrison  the  committee  decided 
to  pay  Knapp  one  hundred  and  fifty  dollars.  Knapp  not 
unnaturally  made  his  grievances  known  to  the  whole  aboli- 
tionist community,  for  he  reasoned  that  Garrison  was  aban- 
doning a  friend  to  save  his  paper.  Garrison  suffered  few 
qualms  of  conscience.  "To  say  that  I  separated  from  my  friend 
Knapp  with  great  reluctance  and  pain  of  mind  — that  I 


284  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

exerted  myself  to  the  utmost  to  retain  him  as  printer  of  the 
Liberator  —  that  I  greatly  compassionated  his  forlorn  condi- 
tion, and  did  everything  in  his  behalf  that  friendship  and 
sympathy  could  suggest  —  is  simply  to  assert  the  truth,  which 
all  my  friends  in  this  quarter  know  full  well/'3  For  those  who 
preferred  it,  Knapp's  version  was  available  for  the  asking. 

The  year  1840  opened  on  a  "political  gulf  that  yawns  to 
devour."4  In  western  New  York  the  political  abolitionists 
were  driving  toward  the  formation  of  a  third  party.  In  New 
York  City  the  Executive  Committee  was  preparing  to  close 
up  shop  and  turn  the  direction  of  the  movement  over  to  its 
auxiliaries.  Some  of  the  New  York  group,  Leavitt,  Stanton, 
and  Birney,  were  ready  to  join  forces  with  the  third  party 
men  upstate.  It  seemed  to  Garrison  that  only  the  Massachu- 
setts Society  remained  loyal  to  the  old  cause  of  moral  suasion. 

His  friend  and  chief  adviser  Henry  Wright,  who  was 
scouting  abolitionist  activities  in  western  New  York  with 
one  eye  on  the  millennium  and  the  other  on  scheming  poli- 
ticians, warned  of  the  coming  "desperate  struggle  for  political 
power"  at  the  spring  meeting  of  the  national  society  and  ad- 
vised him  "to  exert  all  your  influence  in  Connecticut  and 
Rhode  Island  to  get  delegates  to  New  York  in  May."5  Garri- 
son took  his  advice  and  spent  the  early  spring  making  the 
circuit  of  local  and  county  conventions,  submitting  resolu- 
tions that  bristled  with  hostility  to  church  and  state.  At  a 
meeting  in  Lynn  in  March  he  gave  an  indication  of  how  far 
he  was  prepared  to  go  by  submitting  two  resolutions  which 
were  passed  without  dissent. 

Resolved,  That  Freedom  and  Slavery  are  natural  and  irreconcil- 
able enemies;  that  it  is  morally  impossible  for  them  to  endure  to- 
gether in  the  same  nation;  and  that  the  existence  of  the  one  can 
only  be  secured  by  the  destruction  of  the  other. 


TRIUMPH  OF  THE  SAINTS  285 

Resolved,  That  slavery  has  exercised  a  pernicious  and  most 
dangerous  influence  in  the  affairs  of  this  Union  from  its  founda- 
tion to  the  present  time;  that  this  influence  has  increased,  is  in- 
creasing, and  cannot  be  destroyed,  except  by  the  destruction  of 
slavery  or  the  Union.0 

Meanwhile  the  advocates  of  a  third  party  were  completing 
their  plans  for  independent  nominations.  At  Albany  on  the 
first  day  of  April  a  convention  called  by  Myron  Holley  and 
Gerrit  Smith  agreed  on  the  Presidential  ticket  of  Birney  and 
Thomas  Earle,  the  Pennsylvania  Quaker.  It  was  a  small 
beginning:  the  Albany  Convention  numbered  only  one  hun- 
dred and  twenty  delegates,  of  whom  one  hundred  and  four 
were  from  western  New  York.  Even  then,  the  vote  to  nomi- 
nate a  ticket  had  been  surprisingly  close  — 44  to  33.  Never- 
theless, the  call  to  "unite  patriots,  philanthropists  and  Chris- 
tians, to  put  down  the  slavery  of  all  parries,  and  put  up  the 
principles  of  the  Declaration  of  Independence,  at  the  ballot 
box"  was  a  challenge  Garrison  had  to  meet.7 

Reviewing  the  rise  of  the  third  party  movement,  he  was 
sure  he  discerned  a  pattern.  The  trouble  began  when  Stanton 
and  Birney  decided  to  build  a  party  engine  for  their  own 
selfish  purposes.  They  had  worked  their  mischief  in  Massa- 
chusetts until  his  loyal  abolitionists  rallied  to  rout  them. 
Defeated  there,  they  retired  to  the  West,  where  they  in- 
veigled Holley  into  calling  the  Albany  Convention.  The  final 
step  would  be  a  desperate  push  at  the  annual  meeting  in 
New  York  to  convert  the  parent  society  into  a  political 
party.  This  he  had  to  prevent  at  all  costs. 

He  began  by  examining  the  philosophy  of  the  third  party 
movement.  Gerrit  Smith,  one  of  its  leaders,  argued  that  since 
neither  the  Whig  nor  the  Democratic  Party  could  be  purged 
of  its  pro-slavery  elements,  abolitionists  were  forced  to 
create  one  of  their  own.  Garrison  replied  with  a  curious 


286  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

analogy.  There  was  no  more  reason,  he  said,  for  "a  war  of 
extermination"  against  the  two  existing  parties  than  for  one 
against  Methodism  or  Unitarianism.  "If  we  must  have  a  new 
political  party  to  abolish  slavery,  must  we  not  also  have  a 
new  religious  sect  for  the  same  purpose?  .  .  ."  American 
politics  needed  new  men,  not  new  labels;  Christian  voters, 
not  party  hacks.  In  voting  for  an  enlightened  abolitionist 
without  regard  to  party  labels  the  anti-slavery  contingent 
did  all  that  was  required.  Just  how  abolitionists  could  secure 
nominations  in  parties  openly  hostile  to  them  he  did  not 
say. 

The  work  of  explaining  nonresistant  perfectionism  was 
made  doubly  difficult  by  his  inability  to  think  through  to 
logical  conclusions.  In  the  first  place,  he  was  not  a  thorough- 
going nonresistant,  as  two  recent  examples  clearly  showed. 
The  Massachusetts  Militia  Law  exempted  only  Quakers  and 
provided  a  fine  for  anyone  else  who  failed  to  train  at  the 
annual  muster.  When  his  friends  asked  his  opinion  on  the 
propriety  of  paying  the  fine,  he  said  that  he  saw  no  reason 
"why  a  military  fine  may  not  be  paid,  as  well  as  any  other 
exacted  by  a  government  based  on  force."  "If  I  refuse  to  bear 
arms  —  if  I  will  not  procure  a  substitute  —  if  I  bear  an  open 
and  uncompromising  testimony  against  the  military  system 
—  I  do  all,  in  my  opinion,  that  is  required  by  Christianity."8 
Principle  need  not  prevent  a  sensible  accommodation.  Then 
when  the  legislature  opened  up  the  liquor  traffic  by  repealing 
die  Massachusetts  License  Law,  he  fought  the  repeal  and 
even  proposed  a  new  and  more  stringent  regulation.  Civil  law 
had  its  uses  even  for  a  millenarian. 

As  the  third  party  movement  gathered  momentum  in  the 
spring  of  1840,  criticism  of  Garrison  increased.  Some  of  the 
political  abolitionists  accused  him  of  secretly  favoring  Harri- 
son. Others  hurled  gibes  at  "that  fellow,"  as  Gamaliel  Bailey 


TRIUMPH  OF  THE  SAINTS  287 

called  him,  "with  his  troop  of  males  and  females."  William 
Goodell,  now  thoroughly  convinced  of  his  old  friend's  ruth- 
less will  to  power,  composed  a  satire  entitled  Hoix  to  Make 
a  Pope.  Take  an  ardent  and  strong-minded  leader,  Goodell 
said,  surround  him  with  unquestioning  friends,  and  soon  the 
belief  will  spread  that  he  is  infallible.  So  it  had  been  with  the 
bishops  of  Rome  and  so  it  was  now  with  William  Lloyd 
Garrison. 

Garrison's  reply  was  An  Address  to  the  Abolitionists  of 
the  United  States,  commissioned  by  the  Massachusetts  Society 
and  circulated  as  a  warning  to  tried-and-true  abolitionists  to 
disregard  the  Albany  Convention.  "The  call  is  presumptuous, 
comes  from  no  authority,  and  should  receive  general  con- 
demnation." It  was  evident,  he  continued,  that  there  was  a 
"small  but  talented"  body  of  restless  men  in  western  New 
York  who  were  determined  to  form  a  third  party  with  the 
hope  of  being  lifted  by  it  into  office.  Whether  theirs  was 
a  desire  for  political  spoils  or  simply  an  error  in  judgment, 
the  damage  to  the  anti-slavery  cause  was  the  same.  "Let  us 
not  sanction  a  precedent,  which  shall  encourage,  nay  author- 
ize a  few  irresponsible  individuals  at  any  time  to  appoint  a 
national  gathering  of  abolitionists,  as  it  may  suit  their  caprice 
or  ambition,  in  order  to  promote  some  selfish  or  local  pur- 
pose."9 Elizur  Wright  quickly  retaliated  with  a  blast  at  the 
Board  of  Managers  of  the  Massachusetts  Society  for  hiding 
behind  their  roaring  giant.  Garrison  countered  by  impeach- 
ing Wright  as  a  trimmer  and  dismissing  his  paper  as  a  travesty. 
On  and  on  raged  the  battle  of  epithets. 

Already  there  were  signs  of  disaffection  in  New  England. 
In  Maine  the  state  society  came  out  for  political  action;  and 
in  western  Massachusetts,  where  the  Whigs  were  traditionally 
strong,  anti-slavery  men  began  to  look  to  the  party  for 
leadership.  Garrison  lashed  out  at  the  politicians.  Moral 


i88  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

suasion,  he  cried,  had  always  worked  in  the  past  — why 
abandon  it  now?  "Yes,  blessed  be  God,  it  can  be  done,  in 
His  name,  and  by  the  power  of  his  truth!  "10  He  was  preaching 
to  the  converted:  not  many  abolitionists  outside  his  own 
bailiwick  could  be  convinced  of  the  "depravity"  of  politi- 
cal abolition  or  the  "Machiavellism"  of  its  leaders.  As 
though  he  realized  the  weakness  of  his  case  against  a  third 
party,  he  dwelt  on  the  futility  of  political  plans  and  advised 
his  followers  not  to  concern  themselves  with  the  forthcoming 
election.  It  was  possible,  he  admitted,  but  not  likely  that  a 
change  in  administration  would  prove  helpful,  and  anyway, 
the  abolitionists  were  powerless  to  decide  the  matter.  "Their 
great  and  only  concern  should  be,  to  revolutionize  the  public 
sentiment  of  the  land  by  truth  and  light;  and  having  done  this, 
they  will  have  accomplished  the  overthrow  of  slavery."11 
The  task  of  actually  freeing  the  slaves  he  would  leave  to 
others,  but  not  to  those  "unprincipled"  abolitionists  who 
needed  the  franchise  in  order  to  keep  from  walking  crook- 
edly, nor  to  ambitious  schemers  who  wanted  to  be  elected 
to  office.  Such  men  lacked  faith  in  God  and  the  simple  in- 
strumentalities which  He  had  adopted  for  the  suppression 
of  evil  in  the  world.  If  moral  suasion  had  multiplied  ten 
thousand  efficient  societies  in  eight  years,  who  knew  what 
the  future  held?  "A  little  can  and  will  leaven  the  whole 
lump."12 

But  what  then?  How  were  the  people  to  show  their  dis- 
approval of  slavery  except  by  voting  it  down?  Just  what  did 
he  want  the  American  people  to  do?  His  silence  suggested 
that  he  opposed  the  third  party  movement  because  he  knew 
he  could  not  control  it,  because  he  saw  a  day  coming  when 
abolitionists  would  cease  to  listen  to  him.  This  fear,  his 
critics  reasoned,  lay  behind  his  decision  to  take  over  the 
American  Anti-Slavery  Society. 


TRIUMPH  OF  THE  SAINTS  289 

The  society  Garrison  set  out  to  capture  in  May,  1840, 
was  already  moribund.  All  hope  of  an  effective  program 
died  the  previous  December  with  the  refusal  of  the  Massa- 
chusetts Society  to  provide  any  money  whatever.  The  Ex- 
ecutive Committee  made  one  last  desperate  appeal  at  a  special 
meeting  in  January,  but  no  funds  were  forthcoming  from 
delegates  who  knew  all  too  well  just  how  weak  the  society 
had  grown.  Instead,  a  committee  was  appointed  and  given 
the  power  to  decide  the  future  of  the  organization  and  plans 
were  made  for  the  transference  of  the  Emancipator  to  the 
New  York  City  Anti-Slavery  Society.  The  committee  issued 
its  report  recommending  that  the  national  organization  either 
be  allowed  to  operate  where  it  pleased  or  be  disbanded.  On 
the  assumption  that  the  old  privilege  would  never  be  re- 
stored, the  Executive  Committee  looked  forward  to  dissolving 
the  society  in  May,  disposing  of  its  stock  of  tracts  and 
pamphlets,  and  completing  the  sale  of  the  Emancipator.  In 
the  meantime  they  pondered  Leavitt's  suggestion  that  they 
continue  to  operate  ex  officio  as  a  clearinghouse. 

When  news  of  the  Executive  Committee's  plans  reached 
Boston,  Garrison  issued  his  countermanifesto.  "That  society 
must  and  will  be  sustained,  under  the  guidance  of  a  trust- 
worthy committee,  let  who  will  plot  to  destroy  it,  whether 
treacherous  friend,  or  open  foe."is  He  called  for  a  strong 
delegation  of  "unswerving,  uncorruptible  friends  of  the 
cause"  to  go  to  New  York  and  save  it.  The  same  power 
which  had  sought  the  life  of  the  Massachusetts  Society,  he 
told  them,  now  threatened  the  whole  movement.  "It  has 
thrown  its  mask  aside,  and  unblushingly  declares  that  our 
sacred  cause  cannot  be  safely  trusted  in  the  hands  of  'the 
common  people'  —  die  farmers,  mechanics,  and  workingmen 
—  but  must  be  placed  under  the  control  of  a  select  body  of 
men  in  order  to  give  it  respectability  and  success!"  To  ac- 


290  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

compUsh  their  ends  the  traitors  would  come  to  the  annual 
meeting  ready  to  demand  the  repeal  of  the  rule  allowing 
women  to  vote.  Then  they  would  try  to  rush  through  the 
convention  a  resolution  making  voting  mandatory  for  mem- 
bers of  the  society  and  outlawing  the  nonresistant  aboli- 
tionists. It  would  require  great  vigilance  on  the  part  of  the 
real  friends  of  the  slave  to  defeat  this  scheme.  "In  what- 
ever part  of  the  country  you  reside,  we  call  you  to  rally  at 
the  meeting  as  one  man."14 

Unwilling  to  leave  it  to  chance  or  the  uncertain  consciences 
of  men  to  provide  him  with  a  majority,  he  decided  to  pack  the 
annual  meeting,  a  fairly  simple  maneuver  since  there  was  no 
rule  limiting  the  number  of  delegates  from  any  one  state.  This 
meant,  in  effect,  that  the  society  would  fall  to  anyone  with 
enough  votes.  His  votes  would  have  to  come  from  Abby 
Kelley's  feminine  anti-slavery  contingent  whose  headquarters 
was  the  Essex  County  Society  in  Lynn.  The  problem  of  trans- 
porting the  ladies  along  with  an  unusually  large  delegation  of 
men  was  solved  by  the  general  agent,  John  Collins,  who 
suggested  chartering  a  special  train  to  Providence  and  from 
there  a  steamboat  to  New  York.  The  fare  was  cheap,  and 
arrangements  could  be  made  for  boarding  the  delegates  in 
the  homes  of  colored  friends  in  the  city  for  twenty-five  cents 
a  day.  The  results  of  Collins's  work  were  described  by  Garri- 
son himself.  "A  few  came  from  the  land  of  'down  east'  and 
the  thick-ribbed  hills  of  the  Granite  State;  but  especially 
from  the  counties  of  old  Essex  and  Middlesex,  and  Norfolk, 
and  Plymouth,  and  Suffolk,  in  Massachusetts,  they  came 
promptly  and  numerously  at  the  summons  of  HUMANITY,  in 
spite  of  'hard  times'  and  the  busy  season  of  the  year,  to  save 
our  heaven-approved  association  from  dissolution,  and  our 
broad  platform  from  being  destroyed."15 

From  the  railing  of  the  steamship  Rhode  Island  Garrison 


TRIUMPH  OF  THE  SAINTS 


watched  "a  heart-stirring  and  rare  spectacle"  as  hundreds  of 
his  delegates  marched  up  the  gangplank  while  Collins  checked 
them  off.  "There  never  has  been  such  a  mass  of  'ultraism* 
afloat,"  he  wrote,  "since  the  first  victim  was  stolen  from  the 
fire-smitten  and  blood-red  soil  of  Africa."  A  three-day 
nor'easter  cleared  just  as  the  Rhode  Island  put  down  Nar- 
ragansett  Bay,  a  sign,  some  thought,  of  God's  pleasure  with 
His  annotated.  A  glorious  sunset  and  full  moon  put  the 
passengers  in  the  proper  spirit  for  a  night  of  anti-slavery 
lectures  —  seven  in  all  —  and  when  the  ship  docked  in  New 
York  it  was  dawn.  Four  hundred  and  fifty  delegates  from 
New  England  descended  on  the  city  ready  to  rescue  the 
American  Anti-Slavery  Society  from  oblivion.  Four  hundred 
of  them  came  from  seaboard  counties  in  Massachusetts;  one 
hundred  and  fifty  were  women;  twenty-seven  only  were 
nonresistants.  "They  were,  indeed,  the  moral  and  religious 
elite  of  New  England  abolitionism,  who  have  buckled  on  the 
anti-slavery  armor  to  wear  to  the  end  of  the  conflict,  or  to 
the  close  of  life." 

The  annual  meeting  was  held  in  the  Tappans'  Fourth  Free 
Church  on  the  corner  of  Madison  and  Catherine  Streets. 
Arthur  Tappan,  the  president  of  the  society,  hearing  of  the 
impending  crisis,  chose  not  to  attend,  a  tactical  error  that 
allowed  Francis  Jackson  to  preside.  The  Executive  Committee 
had  known  that  the  Garrisonians  were  beating  the  bushes  for 
delegates  and  had  hurried  to  follow  their  example.  Over  a 
thousand  delegates  crowded  the  first  session  and  sat  rest- 
lessly through  the  interminable  opening  ceremonies  which 
could  not  hide  the  rising  tension.  Then  came  hours  of  debate 
filled  with  pious  hypocrisy  and  mutual  recrimination;  but 
when  a  vote  was  finally  taken  on  the  admission  of  women, 
Garrison's  party  won  557  to  45  1.16  He  had  used  his  "Lynn 
majority"  to  good  advantage.  Lewis  Tappan  promptly  re- 


292  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

signed  from  the  Business  Committee  and  soon  thereafter  led 
the  exodus  of  anti-Garrisonians  from  the  hall  Over  four 
hundred  left  the  meeting  for  a  conference  room  in  the 
church  basement,  where  they  drew  up  plans  for  a  new 
society.  Upstairs  the  Garrisonians  rejoiced.  "It  was  our  anti- 
slavery  boatload  that  saved  our  society  from  falling  into  the 
hands  of  the  new  organizers,  or  more  correctly,  disorgan- 
izes/' Garrison  boasted,  not  without  truth. 

While  the  secessionists  launched  their  new  American  and 
Foreign  Anti-Slavery  Society,  the  Garrisonians,  or  the  "old 
organization,"  as  they  now  called  themselves,  made  quick 
work  of  refashioning  their  institution.  First  they  elected 
Lucretia  Mott,  Maria  Weston  Chapman,  and  Lydia  Child 
to  the  new  Executive  Committee  and  then  passed  resolutions 
censuring  the  secessionists  and  denouncing  both  the  Ameri- 
can church  and  the  third  party  movement.  "We  have  made 
clean  work  of  everything/'  Garrison  chortled,  "  —  adopted 
the  most  thorough-going  resolutions,  and  taken  the  strongest 
ground,  with  crashing  unanimity."17 

The  old  organization  —  now  "our  society"  —  hardly  seemed 
worth  the  fight.  The  treasury  was  empty,  its  stock  of  litera- 
ture gone,  the  allegiance  of  most  of  the  state  organizations 
lost.  From  now  on,  the  American  Anti-Slavery  Society  func- 
tioned chiefly  as  an  auxiliary  of  the  Massachusetts  Society. 
The  secessionists  had  taken  the  Emancipator  with  them,  and 
there  were  almost  no  funds  available  for  a  new  paper.  Un- 
perturbed, Garrison  set  up  headquarters  in  Nassau  Street 
as  a  temporary  clearinghouse  for  the  little  business  which 
now  befell  the  organization.  Mrs.  Child  agreed  to  try  editing 
the  National  Anti-Slavery  Standard,  the  new  paper,  and 
delegates  were  appointed  to  the  World  Anti-Slavery  Con- 
vention to  be  held  in  June  in  London.  Garrison  was  well 
pleased  with  his  work.  "Our  campaign  has  just  closed  and  a 


TRIUMPH  OF  THE  SAINTS  293 

severe  siege  we  have  had  of  it,  and  a  glorious  triumph,  we 
have  achieved."  What  the  fruits  of  victory  would  be  no  one 
knew. 

Garrison  always  represented  the  schism  of  1840  as  the 
victory  of  progressive  reform  over  the  reactionary  forces  of 
sectarianism  and  political  double-dealing.  The  real  issues 
were  somewhat  different.  In  the  first  place,  the  division  was 
not  solely  the  result  of  woman's  rights:  The  participation  of 
women  was  only  the  immediate  cause.  The  Executive 
Committee  and  its  allies  knew  that  Garrison  planned  to  use 
his  women  delegates  to  defeat  political  anti-slavery  and  intro- 
duce the  principles  of  no-government.  Lewis  Tappan  had 
seen  the  issue  clearly  from  the  beginning.  The  national 
society  broke  apart,  he  told  Weld,  "chiefly  because  Garrison 
and  his  party  .  .  .  foisted  upon  the  Amer.  And  S.  Soc.  the 
woman  question,  no  government  question,  etc.,  and  the  bad 
spirit  shown  by  the  Liberator,  etc."  Garrison  had  been  the 
aggressor  from  the  beginning.  "W.L.G.  introduced  the  ques- 
tion into  the  Anti  S.  Soc.  to  make  an  experiment  upon  the 
public.  He  had  avowed  before  that  there  were  subjects 
paramount  to  the  Anti  S.  cause.  And  he  was  using  the  Society 
as  an  instrument  to  establish  these  notions.  Since  he  intro- 
duced this  question  the  slave  has  been  lost  sight  of  mainly."18 
The  capture  of  the  national  society  marked  the  height  of 
Garrison's  anti-slavery  career  and  ironically  the  beginning  of 
its  decline.  Having  rejected  politics  and  turned  his  back  on  the 
church,  he  could  lead  his  "old  society"  in  just  one  direction 
—  toward  the  principle  of  "No  Union  with  Slaveholders"  and 
the  doctrine  of  secession. 

Leaving  the  affairs  of  the  society  in  a  muddle,  he  hurried 
off  to  London  in  hope  of  arriving  in  time  for  the  first  session 
of  the  World  Convention.  The  World  Anti-Slavery  Conven- 
tion had  been  called  by  the  British  abolitionists  at  the  sug- 


294  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

gestion  of  the  New  York  Committee  to  discuss  the  progress 
of  West  Indian  emancipation  and  accelerate  the  work  in 
America.  The  first  call  was  issued  to  all  "friends  of  the 
slave/'  but  when  the  English  learned  that  the  Massachusetts 
abolitionists  planned  to  demonstrate  for  the  rights  of  women 
by  appointing  female  delegates,  they  sent  a  second  invitation 
reminding  the  Americans  that  "gentlemen  only  were  ex- 
pected to  attend."  These  careful  reminders  went  unheeded 
in  Massachusetts,  where  Maria  Chapman  and  Harriet  Mar- 
tineau,  an  honorary  member  of  the  Massachusetts  Society, 
had  already  been  appointed  delegates. 

After  the  secession,  the  "old  organization"  appointed  Garri- 
son, Charles  Remond,  William  Adams  and  Nathaniel  P. 
Rogers  as  its  accredited  delegates.  Remond,  a  free  Negro  of 
intelligence  and  ability,  was  one  of  the  most  effective 
lecturers  in  Garrison's  collection.  Just  thirty  years  old  and 
wholly  self-educated,  he  had  joined  the  Garrisonians  three 
years  before  and  served  as  agent  of  the  Massachusetts  Society. 
He  was  a  proud  man  with  a  quick  temper  and  a  savage  wit, 
and  as  a  campaigner  did  more  than  anyone  except  Freder- 
ick A.  Douglass  to  acquaint  audiences  in  the  Northeast  with 
the  intellectual  potential  of  the  Negro.  William  Adams  was 
a  Quaker  from  Rhode  Island,  a  loyal  Garrisonian  and  a  man 
of  unexceptionable  parts.  Nathaniel  P.  Rogers,  the  fourth 
member  of  the  delegation,  had  only  recently  taken  up  the 
anti-slavery  cause  and  was  destined  to  become  a  particularly 
painful  thorn  in  Garrison's  side.  Rogers  once  boasted  that 
he  could  "out-Garrison  Garrison,"  and  so  he  could.  Ten  years 
older  than  his  chief,  secretary  of  the  New  Hampshire  Society 
and  nonresistant  editor  of  the  Herald  of  Freedom,  he  had 
emerged  suddenly  in  the  stormy  days  of  1839  as  a  valuable 
ally  and  was  being  groomed  for  the  new  post  at  the  Anti- 
Slavery  Standard  in  case  Mrs.  Child  refused.  "The  more  I 


TRIUMPH  OF  THE  SAINTS 295 

see  of  Rogers,  I  love  him,"  Garrison  wrote  to  Helen  from 
New  York,  "and  his  friendship  for  me  is  ardent  and  sin- 
cere."19 It  would  remain  so  for  three  years. 

The  "new  organization"  also  sent  delegates  to  the  World 
Convention,  among  them  Birney  and  Stanton,  who  were 
resolved  on  preventing  Garrison  from  bamboozling  the 
British  abolitionists  as  he  had  the  Americans.  Joshua  Leavitt 
spoke  for  all  of  the  secessionists  when  he  expressed  the  hope 
that  the  winds  would  prove  "over-organized  and  delay  their 
champion."  Leavitt's  wish  was  granted  —  the  Columbus  with 
its  radical  cargo  took  twenty-five  days  to  reach  Liverpool. 
Garrison  improved  his  time  by  remonstrating  with  the  cap- 
tain for  putting  Remond  in  steerage,  and  studying  the  con- 
dition of  the  sailors  in  the  merchant  marine.  When  things 
grew  dull,  he  chided  the  passengers  for  their  drinking  habits 
and  loose  morals.  He  was  glad  to  part  company  with  such 
"immoral  creatures"  when  on  June  16  the  Columbus  docked 
in  Liverpool.  By  then  the  World  Convention  had  been  in 
session  for  three  days. 

He  arrived  at  Freemasons'  Hall  in  Great  Queen  Street  to 
find  the  fight  for  admission  of  women  already  lost.  In  the 
balcony  sat  Lucretia  Mott,  Ann  Phillips,  Elizabeth  Cady 
Stanton  and  the  rest  of  the  women  delegates  surrounded  by 
attentive  gentlemen  from  the  floor  but  denied  the  right  to 
participate.  Wendell  Phillips,  heeding  his  wife's  instructions 
not  to  "shilly-shally,"  had  done  his  best  to  crack  English 
reserve.  At  the  opening  session  he  moved  that  all  persons 
accredited  by  any  anti-slavery  society  be  admitted  to  the 
convention,  but  immediately  the  defenders  of  male  order 
protested,  English  clergyman  vying  with  American  to  ex- 
plain why  the  ladies,  amiable  as  they  were,  had  no  right  to 
be  there.  Phillips's  motion  was  struck  down,  his  protest  tabled, 


296  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

and  his  female  admirers  escorted  to  the  balcony,  where  Garri- 
son found  them.20 

Apprised  of  the  situation,  Garrison  agreed  not  to  disturb 
the  convention  "by  renewing  the  agitation  of  the  subject 
already  decided,"  but  he  was  determined  to  add  his  protest 
by  joining  the  ladies.  Lucretia  Mott  thought  it  a  foolish 
gesture  and  said  so,  though  Rogers  was  sure  their  silent  pro- 
test shocked  the  English.  "Haman  never  looked  more  blank 
on  seeing  Mordecai  sitting  in  the  king's  gate  with  his  hat 
on,  than  did  this  'Committee  in  Conference'  on  seeing  us 
take  the  position  we  did."21  The  Garrisonians  stayed  with 
the  women  for  the  rest  of  the  convention,  deaf  to  the  en- 
treaties from  the  floor  to  come  down.  Daniel  O'Connell 
objected  to  the  exclusion  of  women,  as  did  John  Stuart  Mill's 
friend  John  Bowring,  but  the  majority  of  the  delegates 
were  well  satisfied  with  the  location  of  the  ladies  and  their 
champion.  Garrison  had  the  bad  grace  to  suggest  to  friends 
that  Phillips  had  mismanaged  the  affair,  and  wrote  to  his  wife 
that  "had  we  arrived  a  few  days  before  the  opening  of  the 
Convention,  we  could  have  carried  our  point  triumphantly."22 
His  unfair  remark  told  only  of  his  dissatisfaction  with  the 
results  of  the  convention. 

He  was  dissatisfied  with  his  whole  visit,  which  contrasted 
sharply  with  his  reception  seven  years  earlier.  Thanks  to 
Birney  and  Stanton  the  English  abolitionists  knew  all  about  his 
"steal."  There  were  the  usual  elaborate  dinner  parties  at 
Samuel  Gurney's  and  William  Ball's  and  luncheons  with 
Powell  Buxton  and  Lord  Morpeth.  The  Duchess  of  Suther- 
land and  Lady  Byron  lavished  attention  on  Remond  and 
Rogers,  while  Mrs.  Opie  and  Elizabeth  Fry  saw  to  it  that 
Garrison  did  not  lack  for  edifying  entertainment.  But  he  was 
not  asked  to  speak  at  the  anniversary  meeting  of  the  British 
and  Foreign  Anti-Slavery  Society,  though  Birney  and  Stan- 


TRIUMPH  OF  THE  SAINTS  297 

ton  were.  He  did  manage  an  impromptu  talk  at  a  soiree  fol- 
lowing the  meeting,  where  he  aired  his  "singular  views,"  as 
Birney  called  them.  "He  has  gained,  I  think,  but  few  ad- 
herents to  them,"  Birney  observed  with  some  satisfaction.23 
One  evening  he  surprised  his  hosts  by  contending  for  a  uni- 
versal reform  of  language;  at  another  dinner  party  he  as- 
tonished the  well-fed  guests  with  a  lengthy  discourse  on 
perfectionism.  "I  let  out  all  my  heresies,  in  my  intercourse 
with  those  who  invite  us,  and  have  made  no  little  stir  in  con- 
sequence," he  reported  proudly  to  his  wife.24  Birney  thought 
his  performances  laughable,  and  Elizabeth  Stanton,  Henry's 
outspoken  bride,  remarked  that  every  time  he  opened  his 
mouth  out  came  folly.  At  still  another  soiree  he  proceeded  to 
bear  "faithful  testimony"  against  Drs.  James  Hoby  and  Fran- 
cis A.  Cox,  revered  figures  in  the  English  religious  community, 
because  they  had  not  condemned  all  aspects  of  Southern  life. 
Perhaps  it  was  the  general  expression  of  disappointment  among 
his  hosts  or  simply  his  own  at  being  elbowed  aside  for  the 
representatives  of  the  "new  organization."  At  any  rate,  he 
was  content  to  be  hurried  off  to  Scotland  by  Thompson  for 
a  series  of  meetings  at  Edinburgh  and  Glasgow.  "Though  I 
like  England  much,  on  many  accounts,"  he  told  Helen,  "I 
can  truly  say  that  I  like  Scotland  better."25 

In  Glasgow  he  encountered  opposition  of  a  new  kind.  Out- 
side the  Emancipation  Chapel  where  he  was  to  speak  he 
found  Chartist  pickets  distributing  handbills  captioned  Have 
We  No  White  Slaves?  and  exposing  the  working  conditions 
in  the  mills  and  mines.  He  took  one  and  read  it  to  the  as- 
sembly inside.  Were  there  white  slaves  as  well  as  black? 
"NO,"  he  replied.  "  —  broad  as  is  the  empire,  and  extensive 
as  are  the  possessions  of  Great  Britain,  not  a  single  white 
slave  can  be  found  in  them  all."  There  was  a  difference  be- 
tween chattel  slaves  and  "those  who  are  only  suffering  from 


298  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

certain  forms  of  political  injustice  or  governmental  oppres- 
sion." Admittedly,  there  were  poor  people  dying  of  starva- 
tion and  little  children  working  long  hours  in  mills,  and  there 
were  also  hundreds  of  thousands  of  laborers  deprived  of  their 
political  rights.  But  British  abolitionists  were  not  blind  to 
"suffering  humanity"  at  home;  they  were  friends  of  the 
poor  and  lowly.  "Are  they  not  so?"  he  asked.  "No!  No!" 
called  out  several  voices.  "Then,"  he  stammered,  "I  ain 
very  sorry  to  hear  it."  After  he  sat  down  a  Chartist  attempted 
to  answer  him  only  to  be  shouted  down.  "I,  for  one,  should 
have  had  no  objections  to  his  being  heard,"  Garrison  later 
explained,  "yet  he  was  clearly  out  of  order,  and  had  no  just 
cause  to  complain  of  the  meeting."26  This  kind  of  agitator 
with  his  "rude  behavior"  and  "criminal  conduct"  upset 
him.  Where  were  the  appeals  to  reason,  justice  and  the  law 
of  God  — where  the  unwavering  reliance  upon  Christian 
truth?  It  was  clear  that  England  and  Scotland  were  no 
longer  as  he  had  remembered  them. 

In  London,  Garrison  talked  with  Robert  Owen  but  found 
the  old  man's  ideas  "absurd  and  demoralizing,"  wild  dreams 
that  would  "make  shipwreck  of  any  scheme  under  its  guid- 
ance, in  due  season."27  Perhaps  a  man's  environment  did  af- 
fect his  development,  and  there  was  no  doubt  that  a  drastic 
reorganization  of  society  was  needed,  but  an  inner  rather 
than  an  outward  reordering,  a  change  of  heart,  not  socialism. 

Garrison's  conservatism  had  deep  roots.  As  a  moralist  first 
and  last  he  believed  that  any  permanent  change  in  the  social 
structure  would  have  to  be  preceded  by  a  general  renovation 
of  the  human  heart.  Thus  his  views  tended  to  uphold  the 
political  status  quo  and  to  defend  laissez-faire  capitalism  by 
redirecting  the  current  of  reform  into  channels  remote  from 
the  economic  and  social  evils  of  his  day.  In  the  first  issue 
of  the  Liberator  he  had  denounced  attempts  "to  inflame  the 


TRIUMPH  OF  THE  SAINTS  299 

minds  of  our  working  classes  against  the  more  opulent.  .  .  . 
That  public  grievances  exist,  is  undoubtedly  true,  but  they 
are  not  confined  to  any  one  class  of  society."  Ten  years  had 
not  altered  this  view.  He  noted  the  glaring  contrasts  in  Eng- 
lish society,  the  "suffering  and  want  staring  me  in  the  face 
on  the  one  hand"  and  the  "opulence  and  splendor  dazzling 
my  vision  on  the  other,"28  yet  no  solution  occurred  to  him 
except  that  of  "going  about  doing  good."  Here  was  the 
paradox  of  his  moral  suasion:  just  as  the  doctrine  of  immediate 
emancipation  logically  implied  a  social  revolution  of  epic 
proportions,  so  his  condemnation  of  the  evils  of  an  irresponsi- 
ble industrial  system  called  for  a  profound  economic  change. 
In  neither  instance  was  he  willing  to  face  the  consequences 
of  his  moral  vision. 

In  August  he  was  back  in  Boston  for  a  reception  at  Marl- 
boro' Chapel  where  he  struck  a  new  patriotic  note  which 
must  have  startled  his  audience.  "I  thank  God  that  I  was 
born  in  the  United  States,"  he  told  them,  "that  my  field  of 
labor  lies  in  the  United  States."  He  saw  now  that  the  English 
abolitionists  —  those  once  worthy  members  of  the  British 
and  Foreign  Anti-Slavery  Society  —  had  been  remiss  in  their 
duty  toward  their  own  people.  British  anti-slavery  had  never 
been  tried  in  the  fiery  furnace;  it  shunned  the  company  of  the 
real  American  abolitionists  "with  pro-slavery  and  delicacy 
of  feeling."  At  last  the  truth!  He  had  been  rejected  and  his 
followers  ignored.  The  Atlantic  community  of  feeling  had 
dissolved,  and  henceforth  Americans  could  look  only  to  their 
own  resources. 

These  resources  seemed  meager  indeed  in  the  autumn  of 
1840.  Shorn  of  most  of  its  auxiliaries,  the  old  organization 
was  on  the  verge  of  collapse.  Each  number  of  the  Anti- 
Slavery  Standard  promised  to  be  the  last;  rent  was  owing  on 
the  Nassau  Street  headquarters.  Ignoring  the  advice  of  Quincy 


300  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

and  Phillips,  who  foresaw  bankruptcy,  he  decided  to  send 
an  agent  to  England  to  solicit  funds  among  the  few  English 
abolitionists  still  loyal  to  him.  The  mission  was  a  "dernier 
ressort,"  undertaken  with  great  reluctance,  but  the  critical 
condition  of  the  society  made  an  appeal  for  funds  imperative. 
Without  aid  from  abroad,  he  admitted,  "I  am  apprehensive 
that  the  American  Anti-Slavery  Society,  with  the  National 
Standard,  Rogers  and  all,  must  sink."29  He  did  not  exag- 
gerate —  the  situation  was  desperate. 

The  financial  troubles  of  the  old  organization  were  com- 
pounded by  numerous  defections  from  nonresistance  as  the 
Presidential  election  approached.  Collins,  who  was  struggling 
to  hold  the  loyalty  of  anti-slavery  men  in  western  Massachu- 
setts, advised  Garrison  again  and  again  to  adapt  his  pro- 
gram to  withstand  a  "whirlwind  of  Political  enthusiasm.  .  .  . 
I  really  wish  you  understood  perfectly  the  exact  position 
the  friends  of  the  old  organization  hold  to  the  two  great 
political  parties.  .  .  .  They  are  politically  intoxicated.  The 
enthusiasm  of  Bank  and  Sub-Treasury,  Harrison  and  Reform, 
has  taken  entire  possession  of  them."30  Typical  of  this  new 
attitude  was  the  case  of  George  Bradburn,  a  minister  from 
Attleboro,  a  loyal  Garrisonian  and  friend  of  the  Liberator. 
Bradburn  had  suddenly  made  up  his  mind  to  vote  Whig  be- 
cause the  party,  at  least  in  Massachusetts,  was  more  friendly 
to  the  abolitionists  than  the  Democratic  Party*  Garrison  dis- 
missed such  explanations  as  conniving  at  robbery.  "Let  no 
whig  or  democrat  abolitionist,"  he  implored,  "sacrifice  his 
anti-slavery  principles,  or  go  with  his  party,  at  the  coming 
election,  on  the  grounds  that  he  thinks  or  knows  that  some- 
one else  will  prove  recreant."31  Yet  this  was  precisely  what 
was  happening  everywhere.  "The  fact  is,"  he  admitted  rue- 
fully, "and  we  cannot  and  ought  not  to  hide  it,  a  large  pro- 
portion of  the  abolitionists  in  this  State  and  elsewhere,  are 


TRIUMPH  OF  THE  SAINTS  301 

determined  to  go  with  their  party  at  the  approaching  elec- 
tion; and  they  will  not  attend  our  meetings  until  after  the 
election,  even  if  at  all.  This  is  not  less  humiliating  than  true."32 

To  recall  Massachusetts  abolitionists  to  their  duty  he  held 
two  conventions  in  October.  The  first  at  Worcester  proved 
"very  interesting,  but  the  number  of  delegates  not  large," 
and  the  second  at  Springfield  came  "very  near  being  a  total 
failure."  Each  week  the  Liberator  censured  the  "arbitrary 
and  prescriptive"  spirit  of  political  parties,  and  its  editor  re- 
minded readers  that  the  organization  of  a  party  "was  never 
dreamed  of  by  abolitionists  in  the  days  of  their  purity  and 
simple  reliance  on  truth."  He  even  went  so  far  as  to  identify 
the  third  party  with  the  new  organization  "full  of  self-seeking, 
and  swayed  by  sectarian  motives."  It  was  with  obvious  relief 
that  he  announced  the  end  of  the  Presidential  campaign.  It  had 
been  all  of  the  devil,  nothing  of  God.  The  American  people 
were  obviously  losing  their  self-respect.  Log  cabins,  hard 
cider,  parades  and  triumphal  arches  — what  were  these  but 
conclusive  proof  of  the  "besotted  state"  of  the  public  mind?33 
With  regret  he  turned  from  the  unenlightening  spectacle  of 
democratic  poEtics  to  the  question  of  universal  reform  and 
attended  the  Chardon  Street  Convention,  that  singular  con- 
ference of  reformers  and  cranks  which  met  for  three  days  in 
November  without  reaching  any  conclusions  or  passing  a 
single  resolution. 

Emerson  has  left  the  best  account  of  the  Chardon  Street 
Convention.  "Madmen,  madwomen,  men  with  beards,  Dunk- 
ers,  Muggletonians,  Gome-outers,  Groaners,  Agrarians, 
Seventh-day  Baptists,  Quakers,  Abolitionists,  Calvinists,  Uni- 
tarians and  Philosophers  —  all  came  successively  to  the  top, 
and  seized  their  moment,  if  not  their  hour,  wherein  to  chide, 
or  pray,  or  preach,  or  protest."34  The  truculent  prophet 
Joseph  Palmer  was  there  striding  through  the  assembly  with 


302  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

his  holy  beard  and  defying  any  man  to  cut  it  off.  So  was 
"that  flea  of  conventions"  Abby  Folsom,  primed  with  her 
interminable  harangue  in  defense  of  freedom  of  speech.  Also 
Dr.  George  W.  F.  Mellen,  another  cracked  vessel  of  the  Lord 
who  frequently  interrupted  the  proceedings.  But  there  were 
also  Theodore  Parker  and  George  Ripley,  Bronson  Alcott, 
Emerson  himself,  William  Ellery  Channing  and  his  nephew 
William  Henry  Channing,  the  ubiquitous  Henry  Wright, 
Abby  Kelley,  the  recluse  poet  Jones  Very,  Father  Taylor,  the 
sailor-preacher,  and  Maria  Chapman  —  all  met  for  a  sharing  of 
views,  bound  together  by  their  search  for  something  "better 
and  more  satisfying  than  a  vote  or  a  definition." 

The  convention  had  been  called  by  the  Friends  of  Uni- 
versal Reform  for  the  purpose  of  examining  "the  validity  of 
the  views  which  generally  prevail  in  this  country  as  to  the 
divine  appointment  of  the  first  day  of  the  week  as  the 
Christian  Sabbath,  and  to  inquire  into  the  origin,  nature, 
and  authority  of  the  Ministry  and  the  Church,  as  now 
existing."35  Garrison  had  not  signed  the  original  call  — he 
believed  the  convention  "premature"  —  but  that  fact  did 
not  prevent  the  press  generally  from  ascribing  to  him  the 
whole  notion  of  an  "infidel  convention."  Once  he  learned  of 
the  "mighty  stir"  the  meeting  would  make  in  Boston,  how- 
ever, he  joined  in  doing  "with  our  might  what  our  hands  find 
to  do."36 

The  Chardon  Street  Convention  was  one  of  the  few  meet- 
ings in  a  lifetime  of  conferences  and  convocations  in  which 
Garrison  found  himself  on  the  Right  with  the  conservatives. 
It  opened  with  a  lively  skirmish  over  the  question  introduced 
by  the  Gome-Outers  of  abolishing  parliamentary  procedure 
altogether  and  proceeding  without  chairman  and  without 
restraint.  Though  the  motion  was  defeated,  parliamentary 
order  was  not  forthcoming.  Joshua  Himes  demanded  that 


TRIUMPH  OF  THE  SAINTS  303 

the  convention  accept  only  the  Old  and  New  Testaments  as 
proof  for  all  arguments.  When  a  storm  of  protest  descended 
on  Himes  and  his  fellow  ministers,  Garrison  came  to  their 
aid  by  requesting  that  all  those  who  rejected  divine  authority 
be  barred  from  participating.  "I  expressly  declared  that  I 
stood  upon  the  Bible,  and  the  Bible  alone,  in  regard  to  my 
views  .  .  .  and  that  I  felt  that  if  I  could  not  stand  trium- 
phantly on  that  foundation,  I  could  stand  nowhere  in  the 
universe."37  The  convention  would  be  bound  by  no  such 
niggling  rule  as  this.  When  John  Pierpont  introduced  the 
proposition  "That  the  first  day  of  the  week  is  ordained  by 
divine  authority  as  the  Christian  Sabbath,"  Scriptural  proof 
was  tossed  to  the  winds.  Accompanied  by  cries  of  "Infidel!" 
and  "Atheist!"  or  "Priest!"  and  "Bigot!"  the  speakers,  often 
two  or  three  at  once,  clamored  to  be  heard.  Periodically  Abby 
Folsorn  or  the  unfortunate  Dr.  Mellen  conducted  a  foray  on 
the  rostrum  only  to  be  turned  back  by  saner  minds  intent  on 
hearing  the  ponderous  arguments  of  Amos  Phelps  and  Dr. 
Samuel  Osgood.  Father  Taylor  spoke  fervently  and  fre- 
quently. Emerson,  who  confessed  to  watching  the  clock  at 
philanthropic  conventions,  said  nothing,  preferring  to  leave 
it  to  the  genius  of  Bronson  Alcott  to  summarize  the  sense 
of  the  meeting  in  orphic  sayings. 

It  was  all  delightfully  zany —  no  minutes,  no  resolutions, 
no  reports,  no  results  —  simply  "the  elucidation  of  truth 
through  free  discussion."38  The  truth  which  these  men  were 
seeking  lay  outside  the  Jacksonian  compass,  beyond  all  proj- 
ects, plans,  blueprints,  all  "small,  sour,  and  fierce  schemes." 
The  Chardon  Street  Convention  was  a  strange  collection  of 
reformers  in  whom  the  social  sentiment  was  weak  and  the 
dictates  of  what  Emerson  called  "the  great  inward  Com- 
mander" were  particularly  strong.  The  very  principle  the 
members  admitted  seeking  they  had  already  found,  for  they 


304  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

came  to  the  Chardon  Street  Chapel  believing  that  the  indi- 
vidual was  the  world.  They  were  philosophical  anarchists 
who  were  perfectly  willing  to  be  dismissed  as  "the  sentimental 
class"  by  the  so-called  realists  of  American  politics  because 
it  was  just  the  "reality"  of  Manifest  Destiny  and  the  margin 
of  profit  they  questioned. 

Although  he  was  fairly  overwhelmed  by  his  colleagues, 
Garrison  sensed  that  they  were  the  prophets  of  a  new  age, 
critical  of  their  society  but  strong  in  their  belief  that  they 
could  redeem  it.  Some  of  them  saw  the  cure  in  the  regenera- 
tion of  the  individual;  others  dreamed  of  a  new  life  in  a 
Fourierist  phalanstery  or  a  New  Harmony.  All  were  agreed 
that  there  was  much  that  was  wrong  with  America.  Garrison 
still  believed  that  slavery  was  the  evil  and  Christ  the  cure; 
but  whether  the  millennium  would  be  built  by  men  or  come 
by  divine  dispensation  he  no  longer  knew. 


14 
"No  Union  with  Slaveholders" 


ON  AN  AUGUST  DAY  in  1841  two  carriages  rolled  slowly 
through  Franconia  Notch  in  the  White  Mountains. 
In  the  first  chaise  rode  two  New  Hampshire  abolitionists, 
Thomas  Beach  and  Ezekiel  Rogers,  deep  in  conversation, 
and  behind  them  came  Garrison  and  Nathaniel  Rogers,  his 
new  friend  and  headstrong  colleague,  singing  hymns  at  the 
top  of  their  voices.  All  four  were  on  their  way  to  an  anti- 
slavery  meeting.  Suddenly  Garrison  noticed  a  cloud  of  smoke 
coming  from  the  carriage  ahead  —  it  seemed  to  be  rising  from 
beneath  friend  Ezekiel's  beaver  hat.  He  stared.  Could  It  be 
tobacco  smoke?  Had  Ezekiel  become  a  chimney  flue?  He 
called  to  him  and  remarked  the  incongruity  of  an  abolitionist's 
profaning  his  mouth  with  the  stupefying  weed.  Might  as 
well  make  it  a  rum-duct!  "We  had  halted  at  the  Iron  Works 
tavern  to  refresh  our  horses,"  Nathaniel  remembered,  "and 
while  they  were  eating,  walked  to  view  the  Furnace.  As  we 
crossed  the  little  bridge,  friend  Rogers  took  out  another 
cigar,  as  if  to  light  it  when  we  should  reach  the  fire.  Is  it 
any  malady  you  have  got,  brother  Rogers,'  said  we  to  him, 
'that  you  smoke  that  thing,  or  is  it  habit  and  indulgence 
merely?'  'It  is  nothing  but  habit/  said  he  gravely;  'or,  I  would 
say  it  'was  nothing  eke,'  and  he  significantly  cast  the  little 
roll  over  the  railing  into  the  Ammonoosuck.  'A  revolution!' 


306  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

exclaimed  Garrison,  'a  glorious  revolution  without  noise  or 
smoke/  and  he  swung  his  hat  cheerily  about  his  head."1 

The  schism  of  1840,  another  revolution  without  casualties, 
opened  a  decade  of  confused  politics  both  within  the  anti- 
slavery  movement  and  in  the  country  at  large.  The  annexation 
of  Texas  planted  the  slavery  issue  in  Congress,  where  it 
grew  like  a  virus  for  fifteen  years,  draining  off  the  energies 
of  legislators  and  paralyzing  the  business  of  government.  With 
the  enormous  new  area  seized  from  Mexico,  the  United  States 
acquired  the  problem  —  abstract  and  hypothetical  as  it  may 
have  seemed  at  first  —  of  the  status  of  slavery  there.  The 
dragons'  teeth  of  a  future  civil  war  were  strewn  over  the 
rocky  plateaus  of  Mexico  by  Winfield  Scott  and  Zachary 
Taylor,  each  too  busy  countering  the  political  ambitions  of 
the  other  to  foresee  the  results  of  their  conquest. 

The  decade  opened  at  home  with  the  death  of  the  new 
President  and  the  strange  sight  of  a  Virginian  of  only  nominal 
Whig  loyalties  in  the  White  House.  Four  years  later  the 
Whigs  again  looked  on  in  dismay  as  Birney's  Liberty  Party 
stole  enough  of  Clay's  New  York  votes  to  throw  the  state 
and  the  election  to  Polk.  Then  it  was  the  turn  of  the  Demo- 
crats when  David  Wilmot  drove  a  sectional  wedge  into  the 
party  by  attempting  to  ban  slavery  from  the  new  territory. 
In  1848  political  disorder  reached  its  climax,  and  the  country 
witnessed  the  spectacle  of  Conscience  against  Cotton,  Hunker 
against  Barnburner,  Free  Soil  against  Manifest  Destiny.  It 
was  a  period  of  broken  alliances  as  parties  scrambled  to 
adjust  to  the  reality  of  the  slavery  question  and  new  men  be- 
gan following  new  sectional  directives.  No  matter  where  they 
began  — in  Charleston  or  Boston,  in  cotton  plantation  or 
cotton  mill  — these  sectional  lines  of  force  led  straight  to 
Washington,  the  new  center  of  agitation  over  slavery. 

It  was  also  a  period  of  reorganization  and  retrenchment 


"NO  UNION  WITH  SLAVEHOLDERS"  307 

for  abolitionists,  who  belatedly  recognized  the  institutional 
breakdown  which  the  schism  had  caused.  Once  a  year,  until 
they  tired  of  the  farce,  Garrison  and  his  followers  made  the 
trek  to  New  York  for  the  annual  meeting  of  the  American 
Anti-Slavery  Society,  listened  to  three  days  of  speeches, 
each  more  radical  than  the  last,  and  returned  to  Boston.  Nor 
was  the  secessionist  American  and  Foreign  Anti-Slavery 
Society  — the  "soulless  new  organization,"  as  the  Garrison- 
ians  continued  to  call  it  —  any  more  representative  of  aboli- 
tionist sentiment  in  the  North.  Weld  disowned  it,  and  despite 
the  exertions  of  Lewis  Tappan,  many  of  its  supporters  soon 
drifted  into  the  Liberty  Party  camp.  Yet  the  Liberty  Party 
vote  in  1 844  totaled  only  sixty-two  thousand,  a  gain  of  eight 
hundred  per  cent  over  four  years  but  hardly  an  index  of 
Northern  views  on  the  expansion  of  slavery.  Three  conclu- 
sions appeared  inescapable:  the  national  organization  was 
dead,  the  careers  of  many  of  the  pioneers  were  at  an  end, 
and  the  anti-slavery  impulse  had  broadened.  In  1846,  at  the 
outbreak  of  the  war  with  Mexico,  abolitionists  were  amazed 
to  discover  that  the  North,  and  particularly  New  England, 
had  developed  an  anti-slavery  conscience.  No  one  could 
quite  explain  the  phenomenon. 

Confusion  reigned  in  the  Garrison  household,  as  though 
completing  its  mastery  over  moral  reform  by  disrupting  the 
affairs  of  its  leader.  Babies  arrived  regularly  —  Charles  Follen 
Garrison  in  1842;  Fanny,  her  father's  favorite,  named  for 
his  mother,  in  1844;  Elizabeth  Pease  two  years  later;  and 
Francis  Jackson  in  1 848  —  five  boys  and  two  girls.  The  baby 
Elizabeth  lived  only  two  years,  and  Charles  died  at  the  age 
of  seven,  scalded  by  a  steam  bath,  a  victim  of  his  father's 
faith  in  medical  quackery.  His  children  found  him  a  happy 
and  surprisingly  indulgent  parent,  given  to  pranks,  boisterous 
games,  and  family  outings.  He  worried  a  good  deal  about  his 


jo8         THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON- 

health  and  suffered  from  all  manner  of  ailments,  real  or 
imaginary,  aching  joints,  gastric  complications,  heart  palpita- 
tions, recurrent  headaches.  Not  a  year  passed  that  he  did  not 
add  to  this  list  of  infirmities,  as  though  his  body  protested 
his  puritanical  principles.  He  bore  cheerfully  his  friends' 
jokes  at  his  hypochondria  while  waiting  patiently  for  another 
doctor  to  consult  and  another  diagnosis  to  consider.  Once 
Phillips  and  Quincy  prevailed  upon  him  to  see  Dr.  John  War- 
ren about  a  swelling  in  his  chest  (he  called  it  his  "devil"),  but 
Warren  found  nothing  wrong  with  him.  Mostly  he  preferred 
the  various  services  of  itinerant  quacks,  country  bone-setters, 
faith-healers  and  animal  magnetists,  homeopaths  and  hydro- 
paths.  Nothing  pleased  him  more  than  a  disagreement  in 
diagnosis.  "Who  shall  decide,"  he  chuckled,  "when  doctors 
disagree?"  When  Warren  and  then  Bowditch  pronounced 
him  sound,  he  started  the  rounds  of  "clairvoyants,"  as  Quincy 
irreverently  called  them,  "who  examined  his  internals  with 
the  back  of  their  heads."  "The  ocular,  or  occipital,  evidence 
of  these  last  worthies,"  Quincy  added  dryly,  "is  the  most 
satisfactory  to  his  mind.  To  most  men,  the  circumstance 
that  they  gave  diametrically  opposite  accounts  of  the  case 
would  be  startling,  but  then  G.  believes  them  both  equally, 
which  arranges  the  affair  satisfactorily."2  The  family  medicine 
shelf  held  everything  from  Buchan's  Hungarian  Balsam  of 
Life  to  Dr.  Church's  Pectoral  Pills.  Once  Garrison  took  a 
dose  of  the  same  Dr.  Church's  Anti-Scrofulous  Panacea  and 
exclaimed  that  he  felt  it  permeating  the  whole  system.  "Per- 
meating the  system!"  Dr.  Weston  snorted.  "Why,  it  was 
the  first  time  he  had  taken  a  glass  of  grog,  and  he  didn't  know 
how  good  it  was." 

For  years  die  family  drifted  from  one  home  to  another. 
Wherever  they  were,  their  home  was  an  anti-slavery  hotel 
with  a  housekeeper,  an  occasional  neighbor,  and  two  or 


"NO  UNION  WITH  SLAVEHOLDERS" 309 

three  visiting  friends  of  universal  reform  who  had  heard  of 
Garrison's  love  of  conversation  and  his  wife's  table*  The 
Boston  clique  saw  to  it  that  he  did  not  lack  for  necessities* 
"I  see  you  have  a  houseful  of  people,"  Charles  Hovey  wrote 
to  Helen  in  sending  her  a  barrel  of  flour.  "Your  husband's 
position  brings  him  many  guests  and  expenses  which  do  not 
belong  to  him/'  God  continued  to  provide  but  in  small 
amounts.  "I  am  never  so  far  in  funds  as  to  have  a  spare  dollar 
by  me,  using  what  economy  I  can,"  Garrison  complained.  His 
financial  dependence  on  well-to-do  friends,  however,  entailed 
no  loss  of  self-esteem. 

In  1842  James  Garrison  died.  Lloyd  improved  the  occasion 
of  the  funeral  by  delivering  a  lecture  on  the  evils  of  war  and 
alcohol.  Though  he  spoke  of  his  brother's  fortitude  and 
resignation,  he  scarcely  understood  the  tragedy  of  James's 
struggle.  James  had  escaped  his  mother's  domination  by  run- 
ning away  and  turning  to  drink;  Lloyd,  while  he  never  had  to 
escape,  had  transferred  his  resistance  to  maternal  authority 
into  a  hatred  of  society  and  a  compulsion  to  tear  it  down. 
Before  he  died  James  might  have  seen  that  his  brother's 
search  for  sainthood  and  obsession  with  purity,  his  anxiety 
and  hostility,  were  somehow  related  to  the  image  of  the 
mother  they  both  professed  to  have  cherished.  But  Lloyd 
was  bent  on  saving  him  and  had  convinced  him  of  his  "evil 
qualities."  His  death  brought  Garrison  no  closer  to  a  self- 
confrontation  than  questioning  whether  James  died  "recon- 
ciled to  God." 

Garrison  was  away  from  home  more  than  ever  now  that 
he  had  joined  the  anti-slavery  lecturers  in  the  field  One  re- 
sult of  the  schism  of  1840  and  the  rise  of  the  Liberty  Party 
was  the  need  for  fence-mending  in  New  England  and  western 
New  York.  Leaving  his  paper  in  the  hands  of  Johnson  and 
Quincy,  he  took  to  the  circuit  with  PhilKps,  Remond  and 


3io 


THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 


Frederick  Douglass,  younger  and  hardier  lecturers  whose 
hectic  pace  wore  him  down.  Douglass  he  discovered  at  a 
New  Bedford  meeting  and  developed  him  into  one  of  his 
most  successful  lecturers  until  the  young  man  proved  too 
headstrong  to  be  harnessed.  Douglass's  strength  on  the  plat- 
form lay  in  his  dignity  and  lofty  tone.  Remond  was  witty 
and  quick  with  repartee,  high-spirited  and  fractious.  Phillips 
possessed  the  power  of  improvisation,  a  theatrical  suppleness 
and  urbanity  that  made  him  the  greatest  of  the  anti-slavery 
orators.  Garrison  lacked  all  of  these  qualities.  His  forte  was 
earnestness,  and  his  best  audiences  were  usually  Quakers. 
"Garrison  just  suited  them,"  Sydney  Gay  remarked  to  Ed- 
mund Quincy  of  one  of  Garrison's  appearances  in  Phila- 
delphia. "His  soberness,  his  solemnity,  his  earnestness  —  his 
evident  deep  religious  feeling  —  his  simplicity  —  all  these  were 
just  what  the  Quakers  love,  &  they  gathered  about  him  as 
their  fathers  did  about  Fox,  &  said  yea!  verily!  he  is  a 
prophet!  "3 

He  was  known  now  as  one  of  the  "old  men"  in  the  move- 
ment, though  only  in  his  late  thirties,  and  was  in  constant 
demand  as  a  speaker.  He  spent  most  of  the  year  1841  travel- 
ing in  New  England  and  attending  local  conventions  in  the 
attempt  to  strike  the  spark  of  organization  again.  In  the  fall 
of  1842,  together  with  Douglass,  Abby  Kelley  and  Charles 
Remond,  he  toured  western  New  York  with  the  hope  of 
bringing  some  of  the  wayward  politicians  back  into  the  fold. 
Though  the  invasion  failed  and  there  were  almost  no  con- 
verts, his  "menagerie"  performed  well  under  adverse  condi- 
tions. His  greatest  difficulty  was  persuading  Douglass  and 
Remond,  neither  of  them  particularly  concerned  with  the 
rigors  of  a  schedule,  to  keep  their  appointments.  At  Syracuse, 
Garrison  reported,  "the  tumult  was  tremendous"  following  an 
ill-chosen  comparison  of  the  Methodist  Episcopal  Church  to 


UNO  UNION  WITH  SLAVEHOLDERS  311 

a  New  York  brothel.  "Rotten  eggs  were  now  thrown,  one 
of  which  was  sent  as  a  special  present  to  me,  and  struck  the 
wall  over  my  head,  scattering  its  contents  on  me  and  others."4 
Benches  were  hurled  and  windows  smashed  to  the  tune  of 
hisses  and  curses  before  the  meeting  was  hastily  adjourned. 
He  told  his  wife  he  still  believed  that  "genuine  anti-slavery" 
would  gain  a  foothold  there,  but  his  opinion  was  not  shared 
by  his  colleagues  who  realized  that,  adapted  to  the  rocky  soil 
of  New  England,  Garrisonism  was  not  destined  to  flourish  on 
the  banks  of  the  Genesee. 

While  its  editor  canvassed  the  countryside  the  Liberator 
languished.  Lydia  and  David  Child's  National  Anti-Slavery 
Standard,  though  Garrison  disapproved  its  Whig  bias,  was 
ably  conducted  and  for  the  moment  self-sustaining,  while  his 
own  paper  stood  in  need  of  editorial  as  well  as  financial  re- 
pair. The  truth  was  that  it  was  badly  edited  and  frequently 
uninteresting.  In  the  first  place,  the  layout  was  eccentric. 
Articles  were  thrown  in  "higgledy-piggledy,"  readers  corn- 
plained.  No  single  issue  was  complete,  matters  were  too  often 
left  at  loose  ends  with  the  promise  of  "more  anon"  or  "more 
next  week"  when  "next  week"  never  came.  Then  there  were 
not  enough  carefully  written  editorials,  too  many  off-the- 
cuff  commentaries  and  too  few  well-chosen  articles.  In  an 
election  week  why  was  there  no  comment  on  the  political 
situation?  Why  the  time-lag  between  news  stories  on  page 
one  and  editorials  on  page  three?  Quincy  remonstrated  with 
him  and  warned  that  unless  he  corrected  his  careless  habits 
the  Liberator  would  have  to  be  discontinued.  "Now  we  know 
that  you  have  talent  enough  and  to  spare  to  write  editorials, 
such  as  no  other  editor  can;  that  you  have  the  most  ample 
materials  for  the  best  of  selections,  and  eminent  tact  and 
sagacity  for  judging  what  is  timely;  and,  moreover,  that  you 
have  abundance  of  time  for  doing  all  this,  if  you  would  but 


3i2  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

have  a  little  method  in  your  madness."  All  that  was  lacking, 
Quincy  explained,  was  industry  and  application.5  Quincy 
asked  the  impossible:  as  the  years  went  by,  the  Liberator 
grew  more  and  more  personal,  disorganized,  and  erratic  as 
its  editor  lost  the  fiery  zeal  of  his  youth. 

The  disruptive  forces  within  the  anti-slavery  movement 
after  1840  were  several,  but  most  important,  perhaps,  was  a 
sudden  awareness  among  abolitionists  of  the  complexity  of 
social  evils  and  their  growing  reluctance  to  isolate  slavery  as 
the  universal  wrong.  They  saw  that  poverty  and  suffering 
were  not  heaven-directed  but  man-made,  and  they  began  to 
consider  solutions  that  fell  short  of  a  regeneration  of  the  hu- 
man race.  In  short,  they  discovered  social  planning.  A  dra- 
matic example  of  the  discovery  of  Utopian  planning  was  the 
career  of  John  A.  Collins,  General  Agent  of  the  Massachu- 
setts Society  and  Garrisonian  knight-errant.  Collins  joined 
the  anti-slavery  movement  as  a  young  theological  student  at 
Andover,  where  he  proved  his  usefulness  by  uncovering  the 
"clerical  plot"  against  Garrison.  His  rise  thereafter  was  me- 
teoric, and  in  1840  he  was  selected  to  undertake  the  delicate 
mission  to  England  for  funds  to  bail  out  the  American  Anti- 
Slavery  Society.  His  expedition,  perhaps  the  most  inglorious 
of  all  abolitionist  appeals  to  British  philanthropy,  ended  in 
failure,  and  he  had  to  borrow  the  passage  money  back  to 
Boston.  But  his  visit  was  the  beginning  of  his  education  in  the 
problems  of  industrial  civilization.  The  horrors  of  Liverpool 
slums  and  brutal  working  conditions  in  the  Midlands  con- 
vinced him  that  the  English  suffered  from  "the  same  prejudice 
against  poverty,  that  we  do  against  color."6  The  English 
themselves  were  guilty  of  "a  vast  and  complicated  system" 
of  slavery,  a  form  as  dangerous  as  it  was  subtle,  which  gave 
to  the  poor  subject  the  appearance  of  freedom  the  more 
successfully  to  grind  him  to  powder.  Laissezfaire,  he  con- 


NO  UNION  WITH   SLAVEHOLDERS  313 

eluded,  had  created  a  nation  of  drones  virtually  slaves  though 
technically  free.  Neither  Corn  Law  nor  Chartism  held  the 
answer  to  the  dislocations  caused  by  industrialism;  nothing 
would  suffice  "until  the  entire  social  structure,  from  which 
the  state  is  but  an  emanation,  is  completely  changed." 

Collins  left  England  a  convert  of  Robert  Owen,  and  al- 
though he  took  up  his  abolitionist  duty  on  his  return,  his 
heart  was  no  longer  in  it.  It  seemed  to  him  now  that  slavery 
was  only  a  small  part  of  the  vast  question  of  social  reorgan- 
ization. In  1843  he  formed  the  Society  of  Universal  Inquiry 
and  Reform  on  the  premise  that  competition  was  a  failure 
and  that  the  future  of  America  lay  in  self-sustaining  com- 
munities of  three  hundred  families  happily  free  from  the 
curse  of  acquisitiveness.  Soon  thereafter  his  society  bought 
three  hundred  acres  outside  Skaneateles,  New  York,  and 
began  working  the  land  on  the  principle  of  "Unity  in  Love," 
Garrison,  though  interested  in  the  scheme,  was  sure  that 
Collins's  underlying  moral  philosophy  had  been  disproved  by 
"myriads  of  facts,  drawn  from  a  world  lying  in  iniquity," 
and  predicted  that  the  experiment  would  prove  "the  baseless 
fabric  of  a  benevolent  dream."7  He  admitted  that  Collins  was 
both  earnest  and  dedicated,  but  rejected  his  ideas  as  "deceit- 
ful" 

Another  experiment,  more  interesting  and  closer  to  home, 
was  Hopedale,  founded  at  Milford,  Massachusetts,  by  a  fel- 
low abolitionist  and  nonresistant  Adin  Ballou.  Ballou  was 
descended  from  a  long  line  of  nonconformists,  and  he  had 
already  been  ousted  from  his  Universalist  pulpit  for  heresy 
when  he  transformed  the  Jones  Farm  in  Milford  into  Fra- 
ternal Order  Number  One.  At  Hopedale  each  member  agreed 
to  work  eight  hours  a  day  for  fifty  cents  and  to  give  the 
community  one  dollar  a  week  for  room  and  board.  This 
arrangement,  Ballou  explained,  was  "to  facilitate  the  honest 


314  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

acquisition  of  individual  property  for  laudable  purposes." 
Thus,  though  it  aimed  at  restoring  pure  Christianity,  Hope- 
dale  was  not  communist.  Like  Garrison,  Ballou  was  inter- 
ested in  every  reform  of  his  age  — peace,  woman's  rights, 
temperance,  and  anti-slavery.  He  built  a  Thornpsonian  water 
spa  on  the  premises  where  ailing  members  could  try  cures  of 
hot  herbs  and  vapor  baths.  The  community  presented  lectures 
on  phrenology  and  mesmerism  and  seances  with  spiritualists. 
Liquor  and  tobacco  were  forbidden  at  Hopedale,  tea  and 
coffee  discouraged,  and  the  dietary  schemes  of  Sylvester 
Graham  and  Catherine  Beecher  much  applauded.  Ballou's 
newspaper,  the  Practical  Christian  (a  title  borrowed  from 
Garrison),  kept  the  gentile  world  abreast  of  activities  in  the 
community.  Its  motto  —  "Absolute  Truth,  Essential  Right- 
eousness, Individual  Responsibility,  Social  Reorganization, 
Human  Progress,  Ultimate  Perfection"  —  offered  something 
for  everybody.8  Members  of  Hopedale  may  have  been  reach- 
ing for  the  millennium,  but  they  were  also,  in  Ballou's  estima- 
tion, "plain  practical  people  .  .  .  very  much  like  the  middle 
class  of  New  Englanders  generally,"  conscientious,  earnest, 
imperfect.  Not  so  imperfect,  however,  as  to  be  incapable  of 
substituting  "Religious  Consecration"  for  "Fragmentary, 
Spasmodic  Piety." 

It  was  just  Ballou's  promise  of  practical  righteousness  which 
Garrison  doubted  the  power  of  any  cooperative  scheme  to 
achieve.  That  there  were  evils  in  society  "too  dreadful  to  be 
contemplated  by  any  human  heart"  he  would  not  deny;  but 
that  they  sprang  from  external  causes  rather  than  "the  evil 
propensities  of  mankind"  he  could  not  agree.  Ultimately  the 
regeneration  of  society  reduced  itself  to  a  question  of  the  indi- 
vidual and  his  God.  "Outward  circumstances  do  indeed  fre- 
quently and  extensively  exert  a  disastrous  influence  on  the 
feelings  and  actions  of  the  people;  but  the  creator  or  cause 


NO  UNION  "WITH  SLAVEHOLDERS  315 

of  these  circumstances  have  not  been  either  Nature  or  a  bene- 
ficial Creator,  but  'an  evil  heart  of  unbelief  in  man  —  an  un- 
willingness to  perform  right  actions --an  almost  universal 
disposition  to  reject  'the  golden  rule'  as  an  unsafe  rule  of 
action  —  a  disregard  of  the  laws  of  being  —  a  contempt  for  the 
commands,  and  a  distrust  in  the  promises  of  God."9  Bad  laws, 
hunger,  poverty,  and  destitution,  he  knew,  were  the  evil 
fruits  of  the  corrupt  tree  of  man. 

Then  his  brother-in-law  George  Benson  decided  to  lay  his 
axe  to  the  roots  of  the  tree.  In  1841  he  sold  the  family  farm 
in  Brooklyn  and  began  a  study  of  "the  great  subject  of  social 
organization."  "Where  do  you  settle?"  Garrison  joked. 
"What  say  you  to  a  little  community  among  ourselves?"10 
Benson  replied  by  founding  within  the  year  the  Northampton 
Association  of  Education  and  Industry.  The  Association  was 
divided  into  two  separate  enterprises  —  an  industrial  com- 
munity of  one  hundred  and  twenty-five  members  and  a  stock 
company  of  investors.  Members  of  the  community  received 
eighty  cents  a  week  for  board,  fuel,  light  and  rent,  and  twenty 
dollars  a  year  for  clothing.  If  their  expenses  exceeded  this 
amount,  they  were  deducted  from  their  share  in  the  profits 
from  the  brick  factory  and  shingle  mill.  Benson's  community 
lasted  four  years,  slightly  longer  than  the  Skaneateles  experi- 
ment. 

Garrison  spoke  with  pride  of  his  brother-in-law  and  his 
friends  as  "among  the  freest  and  best  spirits  of  the  age,"  and 
he  was  a  frequent  visitor  at  the  community.  Yet  he  clung 
to  the  belief  that  permanent  changes  in  society  originate 
"within  the  individual  and  work  outwards."  It  was  Christ's 
example  that  made  better  citizens.  The  trouble  with  com- 
munity schemes  —  Bronson  Alcott's  as  well  as  Robert  Owen's 
—  was  that  they  ignored  this  simple  truth.  "The  chief  ob- 
stacles to  the  success  of  these  communities  or  associations  will 


316  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

lie  in  the  breasts  of  their  members,  and  not  in  the  present 
state  of  society/'11  His  old  Federalist  conservatism  led  him  to 
reject  as  "radically  defective"  any  plan  involving  new  prop- 
erty relationships.  Inequality  of  wealth  he  dismissed  as  simply 
an  "outward  symptom"  of  an  "inward  disease,"  and  he  in- 
sisted only  religion  could  bring  down  the  lofty  and  exalt  the 
depressed.  "Every  axiom  of  political  economy  that  is  not 
based  upon  a  law  of  God  is,  at  best,  but  a  cunning  falsehood 
or  a  plausible  artifice.  To  attempt,  therefore,  to  secure  prop- 
erty to  a  nation  in  any  other  manner  than  by  seeking  the 
intellectual  and  moral  improvement  of  the  people —  in  one 
word,  by  christianizing  them,  is  something  worse  than  a 
blunder.  It  is  to  suspend  the  laws  of  the  material  world,  and 
expect  that  grapes  may  be  gathered  from  thorns,  and  figs 
from  thistles.  It  is  to  unhinge  the  moral  government  of  the 
universe,  and  suppose  that  a  great  improvement  can  be  made 
upon  the  original  plan."12  Peace  to  the  ghost  of  Federalism 
and  a  sigh  for  the  days  when  saving  religion  and  sound  poli- 
tics linked  arms! 

Garrison  had  even  less  sympathy  with  the  religious  mania 
sweeping  New  England  after  1 840  —  the  millenarian  fantasy 
of  Father  Miller.  Miller's  pre-millennial  advent,  first  scheduled 
for  1843  and  then  for  October  22,  1844,  won  a  number  of 
converts  in  Boston,  notably  Joshua  Himes,  pastor  of  the 
Chardon  Street  Chapel,  and  Charles  Fitch,  once  a  member  of 
the  "clerical  conspiracy."  In  Himes,  Miller  found  a  revival 
promoter  without  peer  who  helped  spread  his  doctrines 
throughout  New  England  and  western  New  York.  Miller's 
notions,  like  the  Christian  communism  of  the  Utopians,  were 
implicit  in  perfectionism;  but  instead  of  making  their  heaven 
on  earth  the  Millerites  were  content  to  accept  it  from  the 
hand  of  God.  Agreeing  that  Miller  and  Himes  were  "good 
men"  favorably  inclined  toward  reform.  Garrison  neverthe- 


NO  UNION  WITH   SLAVEHOLDERS  317 

less  dismissed  their  ideas  as  absurd.  "As  the  French  Revolu- 
tion was  the  legitimate  product  of  the  false  religion  of  France, 
to  whom  all  its  excesses  and  horrors  are  to  be  attributed,  so 
is  the  present  'Miller  mania'  to  be  traced  to  the  false  teach- 
ings of  a  dumb  and  blind  priesthood,  and  an  apostate  church, 
for  centuries."13  The  fallacy  in  Miller's  reasoning,  Garrison 
held,  was  not  his  doctrine  of  a  second  coming  but  his  un- 
warranted assumption  that  it  lay  in  the  future.  As  a  disciple 
of  John  Humphrey  Noyes,  Garrison  believed  that  Christ  had 
returned  eighteen  hundred  years  ago.  Jesus  had  told  Paul 
that  "this  generation  shall  not  pass  until  these  things  are  ful- 
filled," and  had  returned  about  the  year  60  A.D.  after  the 
apostles  had  prepared  for  His  coming.  His  return  spelled  the 
end  of  the  apostolic  ministry  with  its  church,  and  His  new 
dispensation  set  men  wholly  free  to  follow  Him.  This  was 
the  "correct"  view  of  the  advent  against  which  Miller  set  his 
"novel  and  preposterous"  explanation.14  Man's  salvation  thus 
lay  in  a  return  to  the  simple  Christianity  of  the  disciples.  Here 
in  the  dim  recesses  of  the  first  century  the  mistake  had  been 
made,  the  sin  of  disobedience  committed.  To  make  a  better 
world,  to  free  the  slave,  abolish  inequality,  banish  suffering, 
people  would  have  to  recognize  their  errors  and  return  to  the 
point  where  they  went  wrong.  Innocence  had  somehow  been 
lost,  but  not  forever  —  by  destroying  wicked  institutions  and 
corrupt  laws  men  could  recapture  it.  Their  future  lay  buried 
deep  in  their  past,  their  salvation  in  an  eternal  return.  The 
way  to  Garrison's  Utopia  led  through  the  doors  of  time  and 
memory  and  down  the  path  of  the  original  garden. 

His  views  on  the  Bible  were  changing  more  rapidly  than 
he  admitted.  His  critics  still  called  him  an  "unbeliever"  and  "a 
total  stranger  to  the  spirit  of  Christ,"  but  he  insisted  that  the 
Scriptures  were  his  "text-book"  and  worth  all  the  other  books 
in  the  world.  The  text  required  no  analysis,  however,  for  he 


318  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

was  convinced  that  Christianity  was  neither  argumentative 
nor  metaphysical  but  dealt  with  self-evident  truths  and  spoke 
an  authoritative  language.  Theologians  and  preachers  were 
too  concerned  with  metaphysics  and  legal  niceties,  and  neg- 
lected the  plain,  simple,  soul-stirring  message  of  the  gospel. 
Besides,  the  art  of  Scriptural  quotation  was  known  to  the 
devil.  A  hireling  clergy  quoted  Paul  who  advised  servants 
to  obey  their  masters,  ordered  women  to  keep  silence  in  the 
churches,  and  recommended  a  little  wine  for  thy  stomach's 
sake.  Garrison  made  a  note  to  avoid  Scriptural  arguments 
from  now  on,  to  teach  "vital  godliness"  in  place  of  "sectarian 
theology."  He  would  show  an  unbelieving  world  that  the 
true  church  was  simply  the  fellowship  of  believers  and  that 
ecclesiastical  bodies  were  only  cages  of  unclean  birds  and 
stables  of  pollution.  "Has  God  made  it  obligatory  upon  us, 
(and  we  believe  he  has,)  to  have  no  fellowship  with  iniquity, 
and  yet  at  the  same  time  does  he  require  us  to  sustain  that 
which  is  in  fellowship  with  all  iniquity?"15  Clearly  not!  The 
true  Christian  had  no  choice  but  to  denounce  evildoers  and  to 
come  out  from  among  them. 

Like  all  of  the  religious  persuasions  of  the  day,  Garrison's 
definition  went  by  a  name.  "Come-Outerism,"  so  called  be- 
cause its  believers  preached  "coming  out"  of  corrupt  churches, 
was  as  old  as  Christianity.  The  idea  of  secession  in  the  name 
of  a  rigorous  piety  had  governed  the  Donatists  in  the  fourth 
century,  the  Albigensians  in  the  eleventh,  the  Anabaptists  in 
the  sixteenth,  and  the  New-Lights  in  the  eighteenth.  Logi- 
cally, the  command  to  come  out  from  iniquity  was  a  part  of 
perfectionism  —  it  completed  it.  A  man  who  has  achieved 
perfection  in  this  world  risks  losing  it  if  he  continues  to  hold 
communion  with  the  unsanctified.  He  must  leave  the  un- 
enlightened and  their  church  or  give  up  his  status  as  a  saint. 
There  were  two  main  types  of  Gome-Outers  in  America  be- 


NO  UNION  WITH  SLAVEHOLDERS  319 

fore  the  Civil  War:  those  who  simply  tested  the  churches  by 
anti-slavery  standards  and,  finding  them  wanting,  departed; 
and  the  "genuine  infidels,"  as  Garrison  called  them,  who  re- 
jected the  whole  institution  of  church  and  clergy.  The  differ- 
ence between  the  two  types  was  only  one  of  degree,  since 
most  of  the  more  radical  Gome-Outers  were  violently  anti- 
slavery.  New  England  Come-Outerism  seems  to  have  origi- 
nated among  pietists  on  Cape  Cod,  but  with  the  Second  Great 
Awakening  it  spread  rapidly.  The  Gome-Outers  were  Chris- 
tian anarchists  who  were  often  unable  to  agree  on  anything 
besides  their  duty  to  leave  a  particular  church.  Perfectionists 
on  the  march,  they  strode  out  of  their  churches  on  to  the 
farthest  reaches  of  Christian  piety  and,  in  the  case  of  Garri- 
son's friends,  to  the  brink  of  insanity. 

Garrison  saw  the  Gome-Outers  as  the  harbingers  of  a  sec- 
ond Reformation,  prophets  destined  to  do  for  Protestantism 
what  Luther  did  to  the  Catholic  Church.  He  particularly  ad- 
mired them  for  their  self-reliance.  They  recognized  no  man 
as  apostle,  prophet,  presbyter,  elder  or  deacon;  they  observed 
no  church  form  and  were  amenable  to  no  tribunal;  they  were 
bound  by  no  creed,  and  they  recorded  their  testimony  against 
all  existing  religions  as  destitute  of  the  primitive  gifts  and 
guilty  of  imposture.  Surely  the  future  of  Christianity  lay  with 
such  free  spirits  as  these  who  sought  to  atone  for  sinful  men 
by  defying  them.  In  the  years  after  1840  Come-Outerism 
infiltrated  his  anti-slavery  movement  and  transformed  it  into 
a  secessionist  crusade. 

The  chief  prophet  of  Come-Outerism  was  Garrison's  new 
friend  Nathaniel  Rogers.  "We  have  a  very  humble  but  very 
faithful  little  squad  of  abolitionists  in  this  place  &  in  our  state," 
Rogers  wrote  to  a  friend  in  1842.  "They  are  at  this  moment 
a  little  more  radical,  than  the  leading  influences  that  surround 
Garrison."16  As  editor  of  the  militant  Herald  of  Freedom  and 


320  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

the  leader  of  ultraism  in  New  Hampshire,  Rogers  was  in  a 
position  to  know.  A  graduate  of  Dartmouth  and  a  successful 
lawyer,  he  had  abandoned  a  lucrative  practice  to  organize 
anti-slavery  in  the  state.  After  witnessing  the  affair  of  the 
"clerical  appeal"  he  became  convinced  of  the  guilt  of  the 
clergy  and  accepted  perfectionism  without  reservation.  His 
obsession  with  consistency  disturbed  the  Boston  clique,  whose 
urbanity  and  sophistication  he  distrusted.  "I  wish  we  could 
let  politics  entirely  alone,"  he  told  those  friends  who  thought 
his  views  too  severe.  "Parties  cant  seem  to  handle  principles. 
They  dont  know  how."  Rogers  felt  that  organizations  of  any 
kind  inevitably  abused  power,  that  even  small  groups  simply 
found  it  impossible  to  do  right.  He  reasoned  that  only  by 
rejecting  power  and  refusing  even  to  recognize  its  symbols 
could  the  righteous  man  escape  its  demonic  clutches.  Accord- 
ingly, he  urged  that  anti-slavery  meetings  be  conducted  with- 
out officers,  notes,  rules  of  order,  or  parliamentary  procedure. 
He  favored  a  return  to  the  Quaker  idea  of  "the  sense  of  the 
meeting,"  and  chided  Garrison  for  his  failure  to  avoid  all  the 
pitfalls  of  politics.  "Garrison  holds  politics  a  mortal  sin  —  yet 
he  fills  his  paper  with  the  doings  of  politicians,  &  censures 
them  for  not  turning  their  politics  to  better  account.  And  he 
holds  to  embodying  the  anti-slavery  movement  in  real  po- 
litical form— with  all  the  formalities  of  parliament  or  Con- 
gress." For  Rogers,  moral  suasion  meant  "mere  speech."  "Tell 
the  truth.  Let  everybody  tell  it  —  &  in  their  own  way.  And 
if  they  transcend  propriety  —  tell  them  so  &  if  they  wont 
conform,  let  them  go  unconformed.  That's  my  sort  of  moral 
suasion.  Any  thing  short  of  it  is  mxr."  Rogers  reached  the 
peak  of  disorganization  when  he  discovered  the  immorality  of 
treasuries  and  budgets  and  suggested  that  henceforth  anti- 
slavery  lecturers  support  themselves  like  Buddhist  monks  with 
begging  bowl. 


"NO  UNION  WITH  SLAVEHOLDERS"  321 

In  Stephen  Symonds  Foster  and  Parker  Pillsbury,  Rogers 
found  two  disciples  worthy  of  his  mettle.  Foster  was  un- 
doubtedly the  most  aggressive  and  humorless  reformer  ever 
to  grace  the  anti-slavery  stage.  He  was  born  in  New  Hamp- 
shire in  1809,  the  ninth  of  thirteen  children  of  a  dirt-poor 
farmer.  He  put  himself  through  Dartmouth,  and  as  a  student 
there  was  jailed  for  refusing  to  perform  militia  service.  Hauled 
off  to  the  town  lock-up,  he  sat  down  and  wrote  a  blistering 
letter  to  the  authorities  complaining  of  the  vermin  and  the 
filth  and  was  rewarded  by  seeing  the  warden  dismissed.  This 
was  the  approach  to  reform  which  he  employed  with  varying 
success  for  the  next  twenty  years.  After  finishing  his  course 
at  Union  Seminary  in  New  York,  he  held  a  Congregational 
pulpit  until  1839,  when  he  left  the  church  in  disgust  and 
joined  the  Garrisonians.  He  was  a  born  trouble-shooter,  a 
crank,  and  a  monomaniac  on  the  subject  of  free  speech.  "I 
could  wish  that  bro.  Foster  would  exercise  more  judgment 
and  discretion  in  the  presentation  of  his  views,"  Garrison 
complained  after  Foster's  epithets  had  touched  off  a  near  riot 
in  Syracuse,  "but  it  is  useless  to  reason  with  him,  with  any 
hope  of  altering  his  course,  as  he  is  firmly  persuaded  that  he 
is  pursuing  the  very  best  course."17  The  best  course  for  Fos- 
ter was  the  course  of  greatest  resistance.  His  favorite  mode 
of  operation  was  to  stride  into  a  church  on  a  Sunday  morning 
and  plant  himself  in  the  front  pew.  He  would  wait  until  time 
for  the  sermon  and  then  rise  and  ask  in  a  resonant  tone  to  be 
heard  in  the  name  of  three  millions  of  suffering  humanity. 
Usually  he  was  tossed  out.  Once  in  Portland,  Maine,  he  landed 
in  the  street  and  broke  his  collarbone.  In  Concord  he  was 
kicked  down  the  aisle  out  into  the  street  and  beaten.  The  next 
day  he  appeared  in  court,  bandaged  but  unrepentant,  to  re- 
fuse to  answer  to  charges  of  disturbing  the  peace.  He  did 
admit  to  disturbing  the  uneasy  peace  of  the  American  church, 


322  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

however,  and  believed  that  the  ends  justified  any  means.  Sup- 
pose a  church  were  on  fire,  he  asked,  would  he  then  be  right 
in  interrupting  the  service  to  tell  the  congregation?  What 
then  if  the  whole  nation  were  on  fire?  ...  At  this  point  his 
lecture  frequently  ended  in  violence.  If  not,  then  he  pro- 
ceeded to  single  out  the  minister  for  comparison  with  a  re- 
cently executed  criminal  or  liken  his  congregation  to  the 
patrons  of  the  local  house  of  ill  fame.  In  1843  he  collected 
some  of  these  pungent  observations  in  a  seventy-two-page 
pamphlet  entitled  The  Brotherhood  of  Thieves:  or,  a  True 
Picture  of  the  American  Church  and  Clergy.  The  title  was 
the  least  offensive  statement  in  the  book. 

Foster  finally  discovered  a  kindred  spirit  in  Abby  Kelley 
and  married  her  in  1845.  Until  then  his  partner  in  disorder 
was  Parker  Pillsbury,  another  master  of  the  art  of  conversion 
by  attrition.  Pillsbury  was  a  native  of  Massachusetts  who 
had  left  the  Congregational  Church  and  gravitated  into 
Rogers's  orbit  in  New  Hampshire.  He  was  gentler  and  more 
intelligent  than  his  traveling  companion,  but  he  too  delighted 
in  setting  the  pulpit  "into  a  pretty  considerable  kind  of  a 
fix."  Together  Pillsbury  and  Foster  took  the  new  gospel  of 
Gome-Outer  abolitionism  into  every  roadside  village  in  New 
Hampshire  and  then  ventured  farther  afield  into  Massachu- 
setts and  Connecticut.  "Our  influence  is  fast  becoming  a 
source  of  terror  to  the  pro-slavery  pulpit  if  not  to  the  pro- 
slavery  parties,"  they  reported  gleefully  to  Garrison,  "and 
no  pains  are  spared  by  men  in  high  places  to  brand  our  most 
active  and  devoted  friends  as  'heretics/  "infidels/  and  'dis- 
honest men.'  "1S 

No  one  in  the  Boston  circle  thought  Foster  and  Pillsbury 
worse  than  mountebanks.  Ellis  Gray  Loring,  before  he  left 
the  Garrisonians  in  despair,  wanted  it  clearly  understood  that 
he  did  not  discuss  anti-slavery  in  Foster's  language.  Phillips, 


NO  UNION  WITH   SLAVEHOLDERS  323 

who  could  employ  the  barbed  word  to  advantage,  thought 
both  were  needlessly  aggressive.  So  did  Quincy  and  Francis 
Jackson.  Even  Garrison  agreed  that  Foster,  at  least,  was  "mor- 
bidly combative."  The  Gome-Outers  made  common  cause 
with  the  older  radicals  like  Henry  Wright  and  Abby  Kelley, 
and  forming  a  nucleus  of  radical  pacificism,  they  began  to 
challenge  the  hegemony  of  the  Bostonians.  At  the  New  Eng- 
land Convention  in  1841  they  fought  Garrison's  resolution, 
which  simply  spoke  of  the  clergy  as  "wickedly  preeminent," 
and  substituted  one  of  their  own,  calling  it  a  "BROTHERHOOD 
OF  THIEVES."  Later  that  same  year  they  recommended  that 
abolitionists  defeat  Jim  Crow  regulations  on  the  railroads  by 
taking  seats  reserved  for  Negroes.  This  resolution,  introduced 
at  a  quarterly  meeting,  was  finally  defeated  through  the  ef- 
forts of  the  Boston  clique,  but  for  a  while  feelings  ran  high. 
Garrison  himself  warned  of  the  danger  of  abolitionists  be- 
coming "invidious  and  censorious  toward  each  other,  in  conse- 
quence of  making  constitutional  peculiarities  virtuous  or 
vicious  traits."19  Word  spread  among  the  Gome-Outers  that 
Garrison  was  growing  "cautious"  and  "conservative."  For 
fifteen  years  there  had  been  no  enemies  to  the  Left,  but  now 
his  comfortable  position  on  the  lunatic  fringe  of  American 
politics  was  threatened  by  a  handful  of  fanatics  chasing  the 
illusion  of  purity. 

It  was  not  true  that  Garrison  had  grown  cautious  or  modi- 
fied his  demand  of  the  South.  The  years  just  before  the  Mexi- 
can War  saw  the  rise  within  his  organization  of  a  new  radical- 
ism powered  by  the  secessionist  energy  of  Come-Outerism. 
Like  many  men  with  neither  great  intelligence  nor  deep  feel- 
ings, Garrison  was  extraordinarily  sensitive  to  the  opinions 
of  others.  He  realized  that  the  New  Hampshire  triumvirate 
was  simply  putting  his  perfectionism  into  practice  and  that 
Come-Outerism  was  symptomatic  of  the  gradual  dispersion 


324  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

of  abolitionist  strength.  Institutional  anti-slavery  was  break- 
ing up,  a  process  which  Phillips  identified  when  he  pointed 
out  that  uthe  organization  may  have  met  with  some  check  — 
but  the  enterprise  is  taking  stronger  &  stronger  hold  of  the 
public."20  From  now  on  Garrison  concerned  himself  with  the 
anti-slavery  enterprise.  The  best  way  of  spreading  the  gospel 
now  appeared  to  be  the  spontaneous  local  meeting  where 
itinerant  anti-slavery  lecturers  like  Foster  and  PUlsbury  per- 
formed in  their  best  Old  Testament  manner.  These  meetings 
were  inexpensive  and  easily  arranged;  the  agents  were  gener- 
ally satisfied  with  their  meager  earnings  and  content  that  they 
should  be  "thoroughly  understood,"  as  Foster  explained,  "by 
the  people  to  whom  alone  we  now  look  for  support."  This 
meant  going  to  the  people  with  a  moral  argument,  democra- 
tizing anti-slavery  and  simplifying  it  even  to  the  point  of 
distortion.  The  other  alternative  after  1840  was  political 
action  which  carried  the  risk  of  all  movements  dependent 
on  votes.  Political  action  meant  the  Liberty  Party,  and  Garri- 
son expressed  his  opinion  of  that  when  he  asked  how  many 
votes  Jesus  of  Nazareth  cast  into  the  ballot  box.  The  logic 
was  shocking  but  his  point  was  unmistakable. 

Much  of  his  opposition  to  the  Liberty  Party  was  the  prod- 
uct of  his  smoldering  hatred  for  Birney,  Leavitt  and  the  other 
"apostates"  who  had  walked  out  of  the  old  society  in  1840 
taking  the  Emancipator  with  them.  He  never  forgave  them 
this  "swindle."  When  Birney  agreed  to  head  the  Liberty 
Party,  Garrison  continued  to  plague  him  with  charges  of 
being  Leavitt's  "dupe,"  a  man  without  "mercenary  motives," 
but  obviously  "not  to  be  relied  on  in  cases  of  strong  tempta- 
tion." He  accused  Birney's  followers  of  being  "vandal  ene- 
mies" who  had  abandoned  true  abolition  out  of  "miserable 
jealousy"  of  its  leaders.  The  object  of  the  Liberty  Party,  he 
implied  more  than  once,  was  not  the  abolition  of  slavery  but 


"NO  UNION  WITH  SLAVEHOLDERS"  325 

the  overthrow  of  William  Lloyd  Garrison.  It  was  an  organ- 
ization "conceived  in  sin/'  "utterly  unprincipled,"  and  there- 
fore "the  most  dangerous  foe  with  which  genuine  anti-slavery 
has  to  contend."  Periodically  he  ran  down  the  list  of  "defec- 
tors" in  an  editorial,  asking  the  whereabouts  of  each  of  them. 
Where  was  James  Birney?  "In  Western  'retiracy,'  waiting 
to  be  elected  President  of  the  United  States,  that  he  may  have 
the  opportunity  to  do  something  for  the  abolition  of  slavery!" 
What  was  Henry  Stanton  doing  now?  "Studying  law  (which 
crushes  humanity  and  is  hostile  to  the  gospel  of  Christ)." 
What  about  Elizur  Wright?  Where  was  he?  Selling  a  trans- 
lation of  French  fables  he  had  made.  And  Whittier  and  his 
friends  —  all  lost  to  the  cause,  all  bewitched  by  the  sorcery 
of  political  action.21 

Lamentations  like  these  were  pure  hokum  and  the  Liberty 
Party  men  did  not  hesitate  to  brand  them  as  such  and  to 
make  a  few  accusations  of  their  own.  Garrison,  they  retorted, 
had  arrived  at  a  "sublime  abstractionism"  and  was  so  busy 
with  keeping  his  own  skirts  clear  that  he  ignored  the  slave. 
Suppose  all  the  opponents  of  slavery  were  William  Lloyd 
Garrisons  —  who  would  stop  the  slavocrats  from  exercising 
complete  dominion  over  the  whole  country?22  More  aboli- 
tionists each  year  were  apparently  reaching  similar  conclu- 
sions, for  each  year  the  Liberty  Party  won  more  votes  until, 
in  1844,  Birney  received  over  sixty-two  thousand.  In  the 
Massachusetts  gubernatorial  election  of  the  previous  year 
Samuel  Sewall,  Garrison's  old  friend  but  now  a  "defector"  to 
the  Liberty  Party,  received  sixty-five  hundred  votes,  while 
only  one  hundred  and  eight  abolitionists  followed  Garrison's 
instructions  to  "scatter"  thek  votes.  At  times  like  these  Garri- 
son changed  his  tone  and  openly  admitted  that  there  was  a 
"considerable  increase"  in  libery  Party  strength.  "We  have 
never  opposed  the  formation  of  a  third  party  as  a  measure 


3 26  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

inherently  wrong,"  he  wrote  as  though  to  put  a  new  face 
on  his  opposition,  "but  have  always  contended  that  the  aboli- 
tionists have  as  clear  and  indisputable  right  to  band  them- 
selves together  as  those  who  call  themselves  whigs  or  demo- 
crats."23 It  was  simply  that  political  action  was  inexpedient 
at  this  time;  an  anti-slavery  party  was  premature;  there  was 
still  too  much  "preliminary  toil"  to  be  performed.24  Such 
statements  fooled  no  one,  least  of  all  the  Liberty  Party. 

He  came  closer  to  his  real  objection  to  the  Liberty  Party 
when  he  referred  to  the  "partial  nature"  of  its  goals  and  its 
concern  with  the  economic  and  political  rather  than  the  moral 
aspects  of  slavery.  "Its  impolicy  in  a  pecuniary  point  of  view 
is  dwelt  upon  far  more  glowingly  than  its  impiety  and  im- 
morality." Appeals  were  made  to  the  pocketbook,  not  to  the 
conscience,  "to  the  love  of  political  preferment,  rather  than 
the  duty  of  Christian  reformation."25  Defenders  of  the  Lib- 
erty Party  found  this  reasoning  incomprehensible.  What  use 
was  moral  suasion,  they  asked,  without  good  works?  "With- 
out these,  we  may  talk  fluently  and  loudly,  may  argue  and 
conclude,  may  exhort,  entreat,  rebuke;  but  nothing  of  moral 
suasion  can  we  employ."26  Principles  without  the  votes  to 
make  them  stick  seemed  to  the  Liberty  men  of  no  use  what- 
ever. 

Not  votes  but  "vindicating  the  principles  of  eternal  justice" 
interested  Garrison.  He  was  sure  that  abolitionists  could 
never  improve  on  the  "apostolic  mode"  of  changing  corrupt 
institutions,  that  is,  by  "the  foolishness  of  preaching."  "Hoiv 
shall  the  people  be  brought  to  repentance?'9  —  this  was  the 
question,  and  the  answer  —  "Moral  suasion  ...  is  the  mode 
appointed  by  God  to  conquer  error,  and  destroy  the  works 
of  darkness."27  His  language  betrayed  his  old  concern  with 
purity.  It  was  not  a  matter  of  laws  to  be  passed  or  steps  to  be 
taken,  but  of  error  to  be  rooted  out  and  repentance  to  be 


"NO  UNION  WITH  SLAVEHOLDERS  3*7 

exacted.  Again,  it  was  not  simply  the  freedom  of  the  Negro 
he  sought.  He  wanted  to  bring  America  to  its  knees,  penitent 
in  sackcloth  and  ashes,  to  help  it  escape  sin  and  death  by 
destroying  evil. 

This  dream  of  escape  was  the  source  of  his  interest  in  all 
the  other  reforms  and  fads  of  the  Forties  —  utopianism,  per- 
fectionism, phrenology,  Graham  bread,  water  cures,  and 
spiritualism.  All  of  these  movements  offered  a  form  of  escape: 
utopianism  from  the  injustices  of  a  competitive  economy; 
perfectionism  from  the  domination  of  the  Church;  Graham- 
ism  from  ill-health  and  neuroses;  phrenology  and  mesmerism 
from  individual  responsibility;  spiritualism  from  the  finality 
of  death.  Garrison  was  involved  with  all  of  these  movements 
in  the  course  of  his  life  but  with  none  more  completely  than 
abolitionism.  He  was  possessed  by  the  image  of  the  shackled 
slave  because  it  cried  out  for  Armageddon.  An  endless  fasci- 
nation with  upheaval  was  the  one  constant  of  his  life,  the 
polestar  in  the  murky  rhetoric  of  his  editorials.  It  explained 
the  vocabulary  of  violence,  the  endless  references  to  "revolu- 
tion," "chaos,"  "blood,"  and  "overthrow."  His  hatred  of 
institutions  lay  deeper  than  his  evangelical  bias,  deeper  even 
than  his  aversion  to  slavery.  For  him  hostility  to  the  estab- 
lished order  and  the  authority  it  wielded  was  a  fundamental 
need.  It  was  of  no  consequence,  he  reasoned,  that  the  anti- 
slavery  pioneers  had  not  envisioned  an  assault  on  existing 
institutions.  They  never  knew  the  power  of  entrenched 
wickedness.  On  the  other  hand,  he  had  decided  to  examine 
anti-slavery  hostility  in  every  institution  in  the  country  — 
"and  if  it  can  be  shown  that  this  hostility  springs  naturally 
from  the  despotic  assumptions  of  such  institutions,  I  do  not 
see  why  abolitionists  may  not  assault  the  institution  itself,  as 
well  as  its  pro-slavery  influence  —  lay  the  axe  at  the  root  of 
the  tree,  as  well  as  cry  out  against  its  fruit."28  The  institution 


328  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

he  now  marked  for  destruction  was  the  American  Union. 

It  was  the  radicals  who  first  explained  to  Garrison  the  con- 
nection between  Come-Outerism  and  anti-slavery.  "One  of 
two  things  must  be  done,"  Abby  Kelley  wrote  to  him  in 
1843,  "  —  either  the  American  Society  and  the  Mass.  Society 
must  stand  on  the  'come-outer'  ground  or  I  must,  as  an  indi- 
vidual, detach  myself  from  them  — I  must  clean  my  hands 
from  the  blood  of  the  slave  that  is  spilt  by  support  of  slavery 
in  church  and  in  state."29  By  1843  Garrison  was  well  down 
the  road  to  disunion  himself,  having  seen  and  accepted  the 
duty  which  Come-Outerism  placed  on  him.  As  early  as 
November,  1841,  at  the  height  of  the  petition  debate  in  Con- 
gress, he  addressed  an  open  letter  to  the  "desperadoes"  of  the 
South  informing  them  that  they  might  leave  the  Union  when- 
ever they  chose.  "They  ought  not  to  be  allowed  seats  in 
Congress,"  he  decided.  "No  political,  no  religious  co-partner- 
ship should  be  had  with  them.  ...  So  far  as  we  are  con- 
cerned, we  'dissolved  the  Union'  with  them,  as  slaveholders, 
the  first  blow  we  aimed  at  their  nefarious  slave  system.  We 
do  not  acknowledge  them  to  be  within  the  pale  of  Christian- 
ity, of  republicanism,  of  humanity."30  Privately  he  told 
friends  that  disunion  was  only  a  question  of  time  and  that 
the  bloody-minded  South  could  only  be  brought  to  terms 
through  terrible  retribution. 

On  January  12,  1842,  John  Quincy  Adams  presented  to  the 
House  a  petition  signed  by  Benjamin  Emerson  and  forty-five 
citizens  of  Haverhill,  Massachusetts  —  all  Democrats  with 
Locof  oco  principles  —  praying  that  the  Union  might  be  speed- 
ily dissolved.  The  petition  was  not  the  first  of  its  kind  to 
reach  the  House:  Adams  reminded  Robert  Barnwell  Rhett 
of  South  Carolina  that  not  long  ago  he  had  offered  a  similar 
appeal.  This  fact  did  not  deter  the  Southern  bloc  from  threat- 


"NO  UNION  WITH  SLAVEHOLDERS"  329 

ening  a  vote  of  censure,  but  Adams  squelched  their  plans  by 
recalling  that  at  the  trial  of  Warren  Hastings,  Burke  spoke 
for  a  month.  Two  weeks  after  Adams's  skirmish  Garrison 
and  his  Massachusetts  Society  held  a  rally  in  Faneuil  Hall  to 
unroll  the  Irish  Petition  signed  by  famed  Daniel  O'Connell 
and  seventy  thousand  Irishmen  urging  their  American  breth- 
ren to  support  the  abolitionists.  In  the  course  of  the  meeting 
Garrison  offered  three  incendiary  resolutions.  The  first  pro- 
vided that  Massachusetts  Senators  and  Representatives  who, 
like  Adams,  were  denied  their  rights  in  Congress,  "ought  at 
once  to  withdraw  to  their  homes."  His  second  resolution  pro- 
claimed the  Union  "a  hollow  mockery,"  and  a  third  an- 
nounced the  time  approaching  "when  the  American  Union 
will  be  dissolved  in  form  as  it  is  now  in  fact."31  To  George 
Benson  he  wrote  that  he  was  both 

an  Irish  Repealer  and  an  American  Repealer.  I  go  for  the  repeal 
of  the  Union  between  England  and  Ireland,  and  for  the  repeal  of 
the  Union  between  North  and  South.  We  must  dissolve  all  con- 
nexion with  those  murderers  of  fathers,  and  murderers  of 
mothers,  and  murderers  of  liberty  and  traffickers  in  human  flesh, 
and  blasphemers  against  the  Almighty,  at  the  South.  What  have 
we  in  common  with  them?  What  have  we  gained,  what  have  we 
not  lost,  by  our  alliance  with  them?  Are  not  their  principles, 
their  pursuits,  their  policies,  their  interests,  their  designs,  their 
feelings,  utterly  diverse  from  ours?  Why,  then,  be  subject  to  their 
dominion?  Why  not  have  the  Union  dissolved  in  form,  as  it  is 
in  fact  —  especially  if  the  form  gives  ample  protection  to  the 
slave  system  by  securing  for  it  all  the  physical  force  of  the  North? 
It  is  not  treason  against  the  cause  of  liberty  to  cry  'Down  with 
every  slaveholding  Union!'  And,  O,  that  I  had  a  voice  louder 
than  a  thousand  thunders,  that  it  might  shake  the  land  and  elec- 
trify the  dead!  —  the  dead  in  sin,  I  mean  —those  skin  by  the  hand 
of  slavery.32 


330  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

The  more  he  studied  it  the  more  compelling  the  idea  of 
Northern  secession  became.  In  an  editorial  in  April,  1842,  he 
reverted  to  the  haunting  childhood  nightmare  of  the  ship- 
wreck. "It  is  now  settled  beyond  all  controversy,"  he  wrote, 
"that  this  nation  is  out  on  a  storm-tossed  sea,  without  com- 
pass, or  chart,  or  rudder,  and  with  the  breakers  of  destruction 
roaring  all  around  her.  .  .  .  They  who  would  be  saved  must 
gird  themselves  with  life-preservers,  and  be  prepared  to  fill 
the  life-boat  without  delay."  Escape  to  Eden  while  there  is 
still  time,  he  seemed  to  be  saying,  make  the  repeal  of  the 
Union  your  salvation!  Then  suddenly  he  placed  a  new  motto 
on  the  masthead  of  the  editorial  column:  A  REPEAL  OF  THE 

UNION  BETWEEN  NORTHERN  LIBERTY  AND  SOUTHERN  SLAVERY 
IS  ESSENTIAL  TO  THE  ABOLITION  OF  THE  ONE  AND  THE  PRESER- 
VATION OF  THE  OTHER. 

Garrison  took  his  disunion  text  from  the  twenty-eighth 
chapter  of  Isaiah:  "We  have  made  a  covenant  with  death, 
and  with  hell  are  we  in  agreement."  The  covenant  was  the 
United  States  Constitution  which  a  whole  new  group  of 
Liberty  Party  theoreticians  was  expounding  as  anti-slavery. 
As  long  as  he  had  believed  in  the  possibility  of  governmental 
action  in  behalf  of  the  slave,  Garrison  held  to  the  view  that 
the  Founding  Fathers  had  intended  to  contain  and  eventually 
to  abolish  slavery.  Now  that  a  political  party  sought  to  elab- 
orate the  anti-slavery  content  of  the  document,  he  reversed 
his  position  and  denounced  the  Constitution  as  a  corrupt 
bargain.  For  once,  he  went  to  the  sources.  In  the  Federalist 
Papers  he  found  nothing  but  exhibitions  of  profligacy,  selfish- 
ness, and  "a  shocking  violation  of  heaven-attested  principles." 
Ignoring  the  Northwest  Ordinance,  he  identified  the  key  to 
the  Constitution  as  the  three-fifths  clause,  which  proved  that 
the  United  States  was  "conceived  in  sin,  and  brought  forth 
in  iniquity."  No  man  could  innocently  support  it  and  no 


NO  UNION   WITH  SLAVEHOLDERS  331 

party  cou"  ^der  it.  "The  political  ballot-box  is  of  Satanic 

origin,  an  V  wicked  and  murderous,"  he  concluded 

with  regs  nstitutional  provisions  for  voting.  "We 

must  ceasi  it,  or  give  up  our  profession  of  Christi- 

anity."33 J  md  Liberty  Party  men  felt  otherwise, 

they  were  is  or  hypocrites. 

Disunion  good  deal  further  than  most  abolitionists, 

even  loyal  Ga.,  xsonians,  were  prepared  to  go.  Lydia  and 
David  Child,  who  had  reluctantly  assumed  joint  editorship 
of  the  Standard  on  the  understanding  that  Garrison  would 
leave  them  alone,  complained  that  he  was  foisting  his  own 
private  views  on  the  national  society.  Following  their  lead, 
that  society  at  its  annual  meeting  in  1 842  refused  to  consider 
the  question  of  disunion  as  a  topic  for  the  usual  resolutions. 
But  the  next  year  Garrison  collected  enough  votes  in  the 
Massachusetts  Society  to  pass  his  resolution  calling  for  an 
end  to  the  Union.  "We  dissolved  the  Union  by  a  handsome 
vote,  after  a  warm  debate,"  Quincy  reported  to  Webb.  The 
disunion  question,  "wrapped  up  by  Garrison  in  some  of  his 
favorite  Old  Testament  Hebraisms  by  way  of  a  vehicle,"  slid 
neatly  through  the  assembly.34 

The  same  motion  did  not  fare  so  well  at  the  annual  meet- 
ing of  the  American  Society  in  New  York  that  year.  The 
chief  order  of  business  in  1843  concerned  the  fate  of  the 
society  itself.  Some  of  the  members  favored  disbanding  it 
on  the  spot;  others  were  for  moving  it  to  Boston  for  the 
reason,  as  Quincy  explained,  "that  there  was  literally  nobody 
in  New  York  but  James  S.  Gibbons  who  either  would  or 
could  act  as  a  member  of  the  Executive  Committee."  When 
the  exchanges  of  opinions  grew  sharp,  someone  suggested 
in  the  interests  of  morale  that  the  matter  be  turned  over  to  a 
committee  of  twenty-five  empowered  to  decide  the  question 
once  and  for  all.  In  the  committee  Garrison,  Collins,  Foster, 


332  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

and  Abby  Kelley  led  the  faction  favoring  removal  of  the  so- 
ciety to  Boston.  Quincy,  Phillips,  and  Caroline  Weston  of 
the  Boston  clique  vehemently  opposed  the  move  on  the 
grounds  that  it  was  tantamount  to  disbanding  the  national 
society.  There  was  a  noticeable  chill  when  Quincy  stiffly  sug- 
gested that  if  the  move  were  voted,  certain  of  the  "Boston 
friends,"  by  which  he  meant  Phillips  and  himself,  might  not 
continue  to  support  the  society.  " Garrison  dilated  his  nostrils 
like  a  war-horse,  and  snuffed  at  us,"  Quincy  recalled.  He  said 
that  of  course,  if  the  "Boston  friends"  were  unwilling  to  take 
trouble  and  responsibility,  then  there  was  nothing  to  do  but 
get  along  in  the  old  way.  A  compromise  was  worked  out, 
however,  which  gave  a  quorum  in  the  Executive  Committee 
to  Boston  so  that  business  meetings  might  be  held  there  while 
nominal  headquarters  were  continued  in  New  York.  Garri- 
son was  forthwith  elected  president  of  the  American  Anti- 
Slavery  Society.  He  "nolo  episcoparfd"  a  bit,  Quincy  noted 
maliciously,  but  ended  by  accepting  the  honor  gratefully.35 
It  was  the  opinion  of  the  society  that  he  made  an  excellent 
presiding  officer  at  public  meetings  where  he  was  limited  to 
introducing  speakers,  but  that  in  debates  he  did  not  answer 
so  well  since  he  was  very  apt  to  do  all  the  talking  himself. 
With  Garrison  in  the  president's  chair  it  was  only  a  question 
of  time  before  the  American  Society,  like  the  Massachusetts 
organization,  should  bow  before  his  secessionist  will. 

The  defeat  of  the  friends  of  the  Union  within  the  national 
organization  came  the  following  year,  in  1844.  Backed  by 
his  host  of  New  England  radicals  and  upheld  by  the  honors 
of  his  office,  Garrison  celebrated  the  tenth  anniversary  of 
the  society  by  completely  rewriting  the  Declaration  of  Senti- 
ments. Henceforth  members  were  pledged  to  the  rallying  cry 
"No  Union  with  Slaveholders,"  as  well  as  to  renouncing  the 
Constitution  as  a  covenant  with  death  and  an  agreement  with 


NO  UNION  WITH  SLAVEHOLDERS  333 

hell.  The  society  was  further  committed  to  opposing  all 
political  parties  and  spreading  the  doctrine  that  "the  strongest 
political  influence  which  they  can  wield  for  the  overthrow 
of  slavery  is,  to  cease  sustaining  the  existing  compact  by  with- 
drawing from  the  polls,  and  calmly  waiting  for  a  time  when 
a  righteous  government  shall  supersede  the  institutions  of 
tyranny/' 

Garrison's  resolutions  and  new  Declaration  of  Principles 
were  accepted  by  the  society  only  after  a  minority  bitterly 
opposed  to  them  had  been  silenced.  Ellis  Gray  Loring  and 
David  Lee  Child,  both  loyal  Whigs,  might  have  been  ex- 
pected to  balk  at  disunion  and  so  perhaps  might  the  Quakers. 
But  there  were  other  veterans  in  the  cause,  dedicated  but 
prudent  men,  who  doubted  the  wisdom  of  disunion  and  ob- 
jected strongly  to  the  speciousness  of  the  prophet's  words. 
He  answered  their  objections  with  another  quotation  from 
Isaiah  —  "For  the  Lord  spake  thus  to  me  with  a  strong  hand, 
and  instructed  me  that  I  should  not  walk  in  the  way  of  this 
people.  .  .  ." 

Removed  from  their  political  setting,  Garrison's  statements 
stand  out  in  hallucinatory  starkness.  Yet  this  kind  of  moral 
absolute  was  commonplace  in  the  charged  atmosphere  of  the 
election  year  1844,  when  voters  realized  that  the  admission 
of  Texas  hung  in  the  balance.  Thomas  Walker  Gilmer,  Vir- 
ginia's favorite  son,  declared  that  annexation  was  absolutely 
essential  to  American  security,  that  only  hasty  approval  could 
prevent  Great  Britain's  seizing  Texas  and  abolishing  slavery 
there.  Other  Southern  spokesmen,  holding  that  any  check  on 
the  expansion  of  slavery  would  split  the  Union,  argued  at  the 
same  time  for  Senator  Robert  John  Walker's  "diffusion 
theory"  by  which  annexation  was  to  hasten  the  end  of  slav- 
ery by  "diffusing"  the  institution  throughout  the  new  terri- 
tory. Fantasy  was  in  the  air  and  threats  of  secession  abounded. 


334  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

At  the  close  of  the  session  in  1843  Adams  and  twelve  other 
anti-slavery  members  of  the  House  issued  a  circular  sum- 
marizing the  history  of  the  Texas  negotiations  and  warning 
that  annexation  would  be  identical  with  dissolution  of  the 
Union.  Following  their  lead,  the  Whig  legislature  of  Massa- 
chusetts passed  a  resolution  (killed  by  Democratic  Governor 
Marcus  Morton)  declaring  that  annexation  could  only  be 
regarded  by  the  people  of  the  Commonwealth  as  "dangerous 
to  its  continuance  in  peace,  in  prosperity,  and  in  enjoyment 
of  those  blessings  which  it  is  the  object  of  free  government 
to  secure."36  The  gap  between  the  abolitionists  and  the  peo- 
ple of  the  North  was  beginning  to  close. 

On  April  12,  1844,  Calhoun,  now  Secretary  of  State,  signed 
the  annexation  treaty  and  sent  it  to  the  Senate  with  the  ex- 
planation that  hurried  approval  was  needed  to  forestall  British 
interference  with  slavery  in  Texas.  What  was  called  slavery, 
Calhoun  added,  was  in  reality  a  political  institution  essential 
to  the  peace,  safety,  and  prosperity  of  those  states  in  the 
Union  in  which  it  existed.  American  slaves  were  better  off 
than  many  British  or  American  workmen;  and  until  abolition- 
ists on  both  sides  of  the  Atlantic  learned  this,  they  would  do 
well  not  to  meddle.  Calhoun's  remarks  opened  a  new  phase 
of  the  slavery  controversy,  the  beginning  of  a  close  cooper- 
ation of  Southern  politicians  and  intellectuals  in  defense  of 
the  "peculiar  institution,"  and  in  the  North  a  new  liaison  be- 
tween moderate  abolitionists  and  insurgent  Whigs.  Southern 
plans  for  a  quick  ratification  misfired  when  Calhoun's  rival, 
Thomas  Hart  Benton,  in  a  bid  for  Senate  leadership,  detached 
enough  Southern  votes  from  the  annexationist  party  to  defeat 
the  treaty  (June  9,  1844),  Folk's  election,  however,  was 
correctly  interpreted  by  the  South  as  a  mandate  for  annex- 
ation, and  on  February  27,  1845,  the  joint  resolution  adding 
the  new  territory  to  the  Union  was  accepted  by  both  Houses. 


"NO  UNION  WITH  SLAVEHOLDERS"*"  335 

Three  days  before  he  left  office  President  Tyler  signed  it. 

Annexation  caught  the  Massachusetts  General  Court  still 
in  a  refractory  mood.  It  passed  resolutions  declaring  first  of 
all  that  there  was  no  precedent  for  the  admission  of  new 
territory  by  legislative  act,  and  secondly,  that  in  ratifying  the 
Constitution  Massachusetts  had  never  delegated  this  power 
to  the  federal  government.  Next  it  asserted  that  the  joint 
resolution  violated  the  Constitution  by  perpetuating  slavery 
and  extending  the  unequal  ratio  of  representation  over  the 
new  territory.  Finally,  the  legislature  announced  its  readiness 
to  cooperate  with  other  states  in  refusing  to  recognize  annex- 
ation, and  "by  every  lawful  and  constitutional  measure,  to 
annul  its  conditions  and  defeat  its  accomplishment."37  If  the 
General  Court's  invitation  to  disobedience  did  not  measure 
up  to  Garrison's  standards,  it  was  as  close  as  a  group  of  politi- 
cians could  come  in  the  year  1845. 

Some  of  these  same  men  crowded  into  Faneuil  Hall  one 
evening  in  January,  1845,  to  attend  an  Anti-Texas  Conven- 
tion. Among  the  delegates  was  Charles  Francis  Adams,  the 
able  if  antiseptic  son  of  Old  Man  Eloquent  and  an  articulate 
opponent  of  slavery  in  his  own  right.  At  the  moment  he  was 
editor  of  the  Boston  Whig,  the  organ  of  the  younger  mem- 
bers of  the  party  with  strong  anti-slavery  tendencies.  Charles 
Sumner,  massive  and  pompous,  was  there  along  with  the 
quieter  but  equally  tenacious  Henry  Wilson.  Also  Horace 
Mann,  a  reformer  turned  politician,  and  John  G.  Palfrey, 
Harvard  professor  and  editor  of  the  North  American  Review, 
Stephen  Phillips,  the  Salem  merchant,  and  George  Hillard. 
These  men  were  already  growing  restive  under  the  leader- 
ship of  the  "Cotton"  conservatives  in  the  Whig  Party,  and  it 
would  not  be  long  before  they  bolted  and  took  their  "Con- 
science" platform  into  the  Free  Soil  Party.  This  evening, 
however,  they  had  met  simply  to  protest  the  annexation  of 


3*6  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

Texas  and  listen  to  speeches.  One  of  the  speakers,  it  was 
said,  would  be  Garrison  himself. 

Waiting  his  turn  on  the  rostrum,  Garrison  turned  his  mind 
from  these  new  faces  to  the  other  friends  he  had  made  in  his 
fifteen  years  of  agitation.  Many  of  them  were  gone,  their 
affection  chilled  by  his  wintry  righteousness  and  domineering 
manner.  The  roll  call  of  discarded  friends  grew  each  year  — 
Lundy,  now  dead,  the  Tappan  brothers,  Goodell,  Leavitt, 
Elizur  Wright,  the  Grimkes  and  Theodore  Weld,  Amos 
Phelps  and  John  Whittier.  More  recently,  George  Bradburn, 
gone  over  to  the  Whigs,  and  the  Childs  —  David  and  Lydia 
—  no  longer  able  to  bear  his  dictatorial  manner.  The  list  of  the 
rejected  and  damned  would  continue  to  grow  —  Nathaniel 
Rogers,  Frederick  Douglass,  Ellis  Gray  Loring,  finally  even 
Phillips  himself.  These  new  recruits  before  him  this  evening 
could  not  make  up  the  loss  of  tried  anti-slavery  comrades. 
They  spoke  with  respect  of  his  services  in  the  cause  and  de- 
ferred politely  to  his  religious  opinions,  but  they  did  not  agree 
with  him.  He  suddenly  realized  that  at  the  age  of  forty  he 
had  become  the  veteran  of  the  anti-slavery  movement,  almost 
the  lone  figure  of  virtue  and  strength  he  had  always  wanted 
to  be. 

These  disturbing  thoughts  were  drowned  in  the  applause 
that  welled  up  and  engulfed  him  as  he  rose  to  speak.  Not 
many  in  the  audience  could  accept  his  ideas,  but  all  were 
visibly  moved  by  his  manner  —  the  ponderous  rolling  periods, 
the  mournful  pauses,  and  the  flat  hard  voice  rising  again  to 
new  charges.  His  words  fell  like  "fiery  rain,"  Surnner  remem- 
bered. "We  deem  it  our  duty  ...  no  binding  force  what- 
ever .  .  .  the  Constitution  has  been  overthrown  .  .  .  the 
Union  has  ceased  to  exist  .  .  .  treat  the  General  Government 
as  a  nullity  .  .  .  assemble  in  convention  without  delay  .  .  ." 
The  ovation  at  the  end  of  his  speech  was  a  signal  not  of  ap- 


NO  UNION  WITH   SLAVEHOLDERS  337 

probation  but  of  respect.  His  audience  seemed  to  realize 
that  though  they  could  never  come  to  like  this  inflexibly 
righteous  man,  they  could  not  help  but  respond  to  his  force. 
He  might  well  be  fanatical  —  no  doubt  he  exaggerated  —  but 
some  of  the  things  he  said  about  the  Southern  plot  to  extend 
slavery  to  the  Pacific  made  sense.  In  the  half-light  of  Faneuil 
Hall  and  the  dimness  of  their  growing  doubts  they  sat  won- 
dering. 

Later  that  year,  in  October,  after  the  Texas  protests  had 
begun  to  subside,  the  Liberator  paid  its  editor's  last  respects 
to  the  nonresistance  cause  which  was  slowly  expiring.  Non- 
resistance  and  the  redemption  of  the  world,  Garrison  wrote, 
were  clearly  synonymous.  "Where  it  prevails,  there  can  be 
no  shedding  of  human  blood,  no  violence,  no  lawless  con- 
duct." The  cause  of  peace  might  have  lost  its  appeal  tempo- 
rarily but  it  would  never  die.  In  the  next  column  there  was 
an  account  of  his  speech  to  the  Middlesex  Anti-Slavery  So- 
ciety. "Give  us  but  five  years  to  agitate  the  question  of  disso- 
lution," he  had  said,  "and  at  the  end  of  that  brief  period,  see 
whether  we  have  made  any  progress  in  changing  public 
sentiment.  .  .  *  We  believe  that  the  dissolution  of  the  Union 
must  give  the  death-blow  to  the  entire  slave  system,"88  Al- 
ready he  foresaw  a  revolution  which  would  come  complete 
with  noise  and  the  smoke  of  guns. 


15 
Compromise 


IN  MAY,  1846,  the  United  States  declared  war  on  Mexico. 
Zachary  Taylor  spent  the  Fourth  of  July  that  year  in  the 
captured  village  of  Matamoros  awaiting  reinforcements  and 
treating  his  weary  soldiers  to  Mexican  cooking  and  patriotic 
speeches.  Two  thousand  miles  to  the  northeast  the  "beauti- 
fully small"  troop  of  loyal  Garrisonians  gathered  in  Dedham 
Grove  to  hear  their  leader's  last  indictment  of  the  war  before 
sailing  to  England.  Two  weeks  later  he  boarded  the  Britannia 
in  Boston  Harbor  and  arrived  in  Liverpool  on  July  3 1  for  a 
reunion  with  his  English  friends. 

His  Boston  friends  were  decidedly  unenthusiastic  about  the 
visit,  his  last  before  the  Civil  War.  At  an  Executive  Com- 
mittee meeting  in  June  they  sat  by  while  he  quarreled  with 
young  Sydney  Gay  over  the  management  of  the  Standard. 
The  Childs  could  have  told  Gay  that  Garrison  would  tolerate 
no  one  who  showed  the  least  editorial  independence.  Lydia 
said  that  Garrison's  idea  of  a  proper  editorial  was  a  preamble 
and  a  dozen  resolutions,  and  that  when  he  went  to  heaven  he 
would  present  Saint  Peter  with  resolutions  that  protested  be- 
ing admitted  by  a  traitor  who  had  betrayed  his  master,  a  blood- 
thirsty villain  who  cut  off  the  high  priest's  ears,  and  a  mis- 
creant who  had  been  warned  thrice  by  the  beast. 

His  spat  with  Gay  arose  over  the  question  of  whether 


COMPROMISE  339 

contributors  to  the  Standard  should  sign  their  editorials.  He 
accused  Gay  of  trying  to  get  credit  for  editorials  he  had  not 
written  and  of  plotting  to  seize  control  of  the  paper.  While 
he  and  Gay  thrashed  out  the  question  of  signatures,  the  rest 
of  the  committee  grew  more  and  more  glum  and  did  not 
brighten  when  he  broached  the  subject  of  another  pilgrimage 
to  England.  "The  poor  thing  wanted  to  be  stood  by  and  put 
through  with  warmth  &  energy,"  Caroline  Weston  wrote  to 
her  sisters,  "but  if  the  board  were  cataleptic  about  Sydney, 
they  were  equally  so  about  him."1  Finally  Phillips  and  Quincy 
gave  in;  James  Russell  Lowell,  who  had  recently  joined  the 
group,  withdrew  his  objections;  and  Francis  Jackson  promised 
to  underwrite  the  trip.  All  that  was  needed  was  a  reason  for 
going.  This  he  manufactured  out  of  the  transgressions  of  the 
Free  Church  of  Scotland  which  had  accepted  funds  from  a 
slaveholding  Presbyterian  congregation  in  South  Carolina.  He 
left  the  country  in  the  midst  of  its  first  anti-slavery  crisis  in 
order  to  protest  the  "foul  deed"  of  the  Free  Church  and 
demand  that  they  "Send  Back  the  Money." 

Enlightening  the  Free  Church  of  Scotland,  he  protested, 
required  "great  exertions."  English  and  Scotch  abolitionists, 
however,  were  of  the  opinion  that  his  services  to  anti-slavery 
would  be  greater  if  he  confined  himself  to  it  instead  of  letting 
fly  at  the  church,  the  Bible,  or  any  other  "great  object"  that 
stood  in  the  way  of  universal  liberty.  In  London  he  visited 
Thompson  and  was  disturbed  to  find  that  he  had  taken  to 
using  tobacco.  "If  I  can  induce  him  to  give  up  this  habit,  and 
sign  the  tee-total  pledge  in  regard  to  snuff,"  he  told  his  wife, 
"I  shall  feel  it  worth  the  expense  of  coming  to  London."  The 
city,  which  teemed  with  pubs  and  prostitutes,  shocked  him. 
Standing  in  front  of  the  Lord  Mayor's  house  one  night,  he 
was  accosted  by  a  handsomely  dressed  lady  of  the  evening 
who  gave  him  "the  most  earnest  glances  in  a  manner  revealing 


340  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

her  desire.  .  .  .  After  advancing  a  few  steps  she  turned  round, 
and  in  the  most  insinuating  manner  acted  as  though  she  ex- 
pected me  to  go  with  her.  .  .  .  My  heart  sank  within  me  to 
think  of  the  horrid  fate  of  that  unfortunate  creature."2  He 
was  glad  that  he  was  a  Bostonian. 

Frederick  Douglass,  already  on  a  mission  in  Scotland,  ap- 
peared with  him  at  most  of  his  lectures.  Together  they 
toured  from  London  to  Edinburgh,  Bristol  to  Belfast,  hold- 
ing "real  old  fashioned  old-organized  meetings"  at  which 
they  declared  "the  whole  counsel  of  God"  and  handled  their 
subjects  "without  mittens."3  Garrison  spoke  to  William  Lov- 
ett's  moral  suasion  Chartists  and  interviewed  Mazzini,  whose 
mystical  Christian  nationalism  and  romantic  temperament  fas- 
cinated him.  In  Glasgow  his  admirers  presented  him  with  a 
silver  tea  service.  Except  for  the  formation  of  an  Anti-Slavery 
League  to  oppose  the  conservative  Evangelical  Alliance,  how- 
ever, he  accomplished  little  for  American  reform.  Douglass, 
on  the  other  hand,  received  seven  hundred  dollars  from  Eng- 
lish abolitionists  to  purchase  his  freedom.  Garrison  contributed 
his  "mite,"  only  to  be  severely  criticized  by  his  followers 
back  home  for  recognizing  the  slave  traffic.  Such  was  not 
the  case,  he  explained.  "Never  have  I  entertained  the  opin- 
ion, for  a  moment,  that  it  was  wrong  to  ransom  one  held  in 
cruel  captivity,  though  I  have  always  maintained,  in  the  case 
of  the  slave,  that  the  demand  of  the  slaveholder  for  compensa- 
tion was  unjust."4  He  saw  no  contradiction  in  denouncing  a 
claim  as  unfair  while  submitting  to  it  in  order  to  save  an 
individual  slave. 

It  was  on  occasions  like  these  that  his  humanitarian  feelings 
broke  the  restraints  of  dogma  and  sent  his  principles  flying. 
In  Drogheda  on  the  way  to  Belfast  he  was  appalled  by  the 
sight  of  starving  Irish  children  begging  by  the  roadside,  and 
grew  indignant  with  the  Dublin  abolitionists  who  refused 


COMPROMISE  341 

donations  from  American  slaveholders.  "I  really  think  there 
is  a  broad  line  of  demarcation  to  be  drawn  between  a  case  in 
which  money  is  obtained  from  the  slaveholders  solely  be- 
cause they  are  first  recognized  as  'members  of  the  household 
of  faith,'  and  that  in  which  it  is  given  voluntarily  (as  in  the 
Irish  case)  without  any  sanction  of  slaveholding  being  either 
required,  volunteered,  or  understood."5  Righteous  as  he 
seemed,  he  was  not  willing  to  weigh  a  moral  principle  against 
the  life  of  a  child. 

In  November  he  came  home  bringing  with  him  the  silver 
tea  set  on  which  there  was  a  sixty-dollar  duty.  The  excise 
was  finally  paid  by  his  women  friends,  but  it  was  enough  to 
make  him  a  confirmed  free-trader  who  denied  the  right  of 
any  country  "to  erect  geographical  or  natural  barriers  in 
opposition  to  these  natural,  essential  and  sacred  rights."6  He 
would  have  been  surprised  to  learn  that  his  language  as  well 
as  his  ideas  were  those  of  the  South  Carolina  Exposition. 

He  returned  to  a  political  situation  in  Massachusetts  already 
tense  with  anti-slavery  strain.  The  trouble  began  in  Washing- 
ton one  evening  the  previous  August  when  David  Wilmot,  a 
portly  young  Democrat  from  Pennsylvania,  offered  to  an 
appropriations  bill  an  amendment  which  closed  to  slavery  all 
the  territory  acquired  in  the  war  with  Mexico.  Passed  by  the 
House,  the  Wilmot  Proviso  died  in  the  Senate  but  not  before 
it  had  raised  the  issue  which  would  dominate  American  poli- 
tics for  the  next  fifteen  years.  Southern  legislatures  denounced 
it,  Northern  reformers  hailed  it  as  a  sign  of  moral  awakening. 
In  the  South  there  was  talk  of  secession;  in  the  North,  of  free 
men  and  free  soil.  The  Whig  Party  could  not  long  with- 
stand these  sectional  pressures,  and  nowhere  was  its  plight 
more  obvious  than  in  Massachusetts,  where  the  "Young 
Whigs"  —  Charles  Sumner,  Henry  Wilson,  John  Gotham 
Palfrey,  Rockwood  Hoar,  George  S.  HHlard,  Stephen  Phil- 


342  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

lips  and  Charles  Allen  —  were  rallying  around  Charles  Fran- 
cis Adams's  free  soil  Daily  Whig.  Ever  since  the  declaration 
of  war  Wilson  had  tried  unsuccessfully  to  put  the  legislature 
on  record  as  opposing  the  extension  of  slavery.  In  the  course 
of  one  of  the  debates  his  colleague  Hoar  declared  that  it  was 
"as  much  the  duty  of  Massachusetts  to  pass  resolutions  in 
favor  of  the  rights  of  man  as  in  the  interests  of  cotton.'*  Hoar's 
quip  stuck,  and  from  then  on  the  dispute  was  one  between 
Cotton  and  Conscience.  At  the  state  convention  of  the  party 
in  September,  1847,  the  Conscience  faction  submitted  resolu- 
tions opposing  slavery  "wherever  it  exists"  and  pledging 
Whigs  to  "continue  in  all  constitutional  measures  that  can 
promote  its  abolition."  When  Robert  Winthrop's  Cotton  fac- 
tion defeated  their  bid  for  an  anti-slavery  platform,  the  Young 
Whigs  retired  to  await  the  coming  of  a  Presidential  year. 

Garrison  was  excited  by  the  sudden  appearance  of  an  anti- 
slavery  Whig  bloc  as  well  as  by  the  Wilmot  Proviso,  which 
he  immediately  claimed  as  an  abolitionist  triumph.  It  was  true 
that  Wilmot's  majority  had  dwindled  away  when  the  appro- 
priations bill  was  finally  passed  and  that  the  war  went  on 
despite  the  opposition  of  New  England.  Yet  every  day  more 
people  in  the  North  were  becoming  convinced  of  what  James 
Russell  Lowell's  crusty  Hosea  Biglow  called  "the  over- 
reachin*  o'  them  nigger-drivin'  states."  When  the  discouraged 
Wilmot  asked  if  the  North  would  ever  find  its  courage  and 
its  voice,  the  answer  came  from  his  own  colleagues.  Robert 
McClelland  of  Michigan  warned  that  slavery  would  expand 
"wherever  man,  in  his  cupidity  and  lust  for  power  can  carry  it." 
David  Brinkerhoff  of  Ohio  asked  whether  the  extension  of 
slavery  "at  which  posterity  will  blush,  which  Christianity 
must  abhor,"  ought  to  be  the  work  of  representatives  of  free 
men.  A  Representative  from  Alabama  deplored  these  "ill- 
starred  agitations"  which  were  disrupting  the  normal  business 


COMPROMISE  343 

of  the  House  but  he  could  not  stop  them.  Garrison  appkuded 
the  new  freedom  of  debate  in  Congress.  Now  any  Northerner 
could  speak  out  against  slavery  and  be  heard. 

His  opposition  to  the  war  mounted  as  the  months  passed: 
he  prayed  for  "success  to  the  injured  Mexicans  and  over- 
whelming defeat  to  the  United  States."7  He  went  further 
and  outlined  a  defeatist  program  for  the  Garrisonians  "now 
boldly  and  continually  to  denounce  the  war,  under  such 
circumstances,  as  bloody  and  iniquitous  —  to  impeach  the  gov- 
ernment and  the  administration  —  to  wish  success  to  the  Mexi- 
cans as  the  injured  party,  who  are  contending  for  their  fire- 
sides and  their  country  against  enslaving  and  remorseless 
invaders/'8  Let  the  abolitionists'  testimony  burn  as  never  be- 
fore into  the  national  conscience.  It  no  longer  mattered  that 
his  organization  lay  in  shambles  and  his  admirers  grew  fewer 
each  year,  for  he  was  convinced  that  his  little  remnant  was 
slowly  gaining  ascendancy  over  the  public  mind.  Whigs  and 
Democrats  still  feared  disunion  like  the  plague,  but  they 
would  come  to  it  soon  enough.  Meanwhile  he  could  afford 
to  wait. 

Control  of  the  national  organization  as  well  as  the  Massa- 
chusetts Society  now  rested  with  the  Boston  clique,  who  were 
beginning  to  exert  a  new  influence  over  their  leader.  Gone 
was  the  fiery  zeal  of  the  Gome-Outers.  Rogers  had  died  worn 
out  by  a  factional  dispute  with  the  Bostonians  and  disillu- 
sioned by  Garrison's  unwillingness  to  accept  all  the  implica- 
tions of  Christian  anarchy.  Henry  Wright  had  virtually  aban- 
doned anti-slavery  for  anti-Sabbatarianism.  Stephen  Symonds 
Foster  was  losing  his  martyr  complex  in  marriage,  and  Parker 
Pillsbury  had  settled  on  a  less  hazardous  manner  of  spreading 
the  gospel.  The  backfires  of  religious  radicalism  were  smolder- 
ing out,  and  the  decisions  were  now  made  in  camera  around 


344  THE  LIBERATOR:    WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

the  polished  grates  in  Essex  Street  drawing  rooms  according 
to  Phillips's  advice  "to  have  only  a  few/'0 

By  1847  ^e  Liberty  Party  was  foundering.  If  abolition 
embarrassed  the  politicians,  politics  was  proving  the  undoing 
of  abolitionists.  In  the  previous  year  the  state  of  New  York 
called  a  convention  to  write  a  new  constitution.  Some  of  the 
Liberty  Party  men,  who  hoped  to  win  broader  suffrage  for 
Negroes,  decided  to  advocate  alliances  with  Whigs  and  Demo- 
crats in  return  for  the  promise  of  support  for  an  extended 
franchise.  Birney  refused  to  have  anything  to  do  with  the 
scheme  and  warned  his  followers  of  the  danger  of  entangling 
alliances.  The  new  state  constitution  bore  out  his  warnings: 
by  its  terms  Negroes  were  not  considered  in  the  apportion- 
ment of  representation,  and  a  property  qualification  was  estab- 
lished large  enough  to  disqualify  almost  every  Negro  in  the 
state. 

The  New  York  constitutional  convention  merely  under- 
scored a  problem  which  had  troubled  the  political  abolitionists 
from  the  beginning,  the  question  of  a  platform.  They  knew 
that  they  could  never  build  a  successful  party  merely  by 
pledging  members  not  to  vote  for  pro-slavery  candidates.  But 
to  pile  the  anti-slavery  platform  with  a  stack  of  new  planks  — 
anti-bank,  anti-tariff,  anti-Masonry  —  was  to  risk  toppling  the 
whole  structure.  Many  of  the  Liberty  Party  men,  however, 
shared  the  business  ethic  of  the  small  entrepreneur;  and  to 
them  the  advantages  of  combining  anti-slavery  and  a  small 
businessman's  credo  seemed  obvious.  A  group  of  schismatics 
tinder  the  leadership  of  William  Goodell  formed  the  Liberty 
League  in  June,  1847,  and  proceeded  to  write  a  platform  that 
included  land  reform,  free  trade,  abolition  of  monopolies, 
direct  taxation,  and  prohibition  of  secret  societies  along  with 
the  usual  anti-slavery  plank.  The  Liberty  League  promptly 
nominated  Gerrit  Smith  for  President  of  the  United  States. 


COMPROMISE  345 

It  was  a  measure  of  the  confusion  besetting  political  abolition- 
ists in  1847  that  Smith,  who  less  than  a  year  before  had 
vehemently  opposed  broadening  the  platform,  accepted  the 
nomination  while  continuing  to  work  with  the  old  Liberty 
Party.  He  paid  for  his  indecision  when  the  Liberty  Party 
Convention  in  the  fall  of  1847  defeated  his  attempt  to  intro- 
duce some  of  the  League's  ideas  and  gave  the  Presidential 
nomination  to  John  P.  Hale  of  New  Hampshire.  From  both 
Smith's  point  of  view  and  that  of  the  Liberty  Party  itself  it 
looked  as  though  political  abolitionists  would  never  succeed  in 
uniting  on  an  anti-slavery  program. 

Garrison  was  delighted  with  the  dissension  in  the  Liberty 
Party.  He  decided  to  help  kill  the  political  dragon  and  then 
display  the  carcass  on  a  tour  throughout  the  Mississippi  Val- 
ley. Before  leaving  Boston  he  prepared  for  his  mission  by 
attacking  the  Liberty  League  in  a  series  of  editorials  as  a 
hopelessly  unrealistic  venture.  Its  nominees,  he  noted  malici- 
ously, might  as  well  conclude  at  the  outset  that  a  private 
station  was  a  post  of  honor.  The  Liberty  Party  with  its  doc- 
trine of  the  unconstitutionality  of  slavery,  however,  was  a 
more  serious  matter.  He  pointed  out  that  Birney,  Smith,  and 
Goodell  had  originally  denied  the  power  of  Congress  to  inter- 
fere with  slavery  but  now  unaccountably  were  reversing 
their  position.  "And  should  that  party  succeed  at  any  time  in 
electing  to  Congress  a  majority  of  Senators  and  Representa- 
tives, does  it  mean  to  pass  a  law,  and  of  course  to  enforce 
the  law,  declaring  slavery  to  be  unlawful  on  any  portion  of 
American  soil?"10  This  would  mean  disunion,  yet  anything 
short  of  it  was  abject  surrender  to  the  slavocracy.  Why  not 
go  the  whole  way  by  accepting  the  logic  of  Northern  seces- 
sion? 

To  find  this  answer,  he  started  west  in  August,  1847,  taking 
with  him  Frederick  Douglass,  who  had  reasons  of  his  own 


346  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GABHISON 

for  going.  English  abolitionists  had  suggested  the  advantages 
of  an  American  anti-slavery  newspaper  edited  by  a  Negro; 
and  Douglass,  realizing  that  the  seaboard  was  oversupplied 
with  competing  abolitionist  journals,  wanted  to  investigate 
Cleveland  as  a  site  for  his  paper.  Garrison  received  the  project 
coldly,  for  he  wanted  no  new  rival  either  in  Massachusetts 
or  Ohio.  He  tried  to  convince  Douglass  that  his  talent  lay 
in  lecturing,  but  the  headstrong  Douglass  immediately  sus- 
pected his  motives.  The  tour  put  a  severe  strain  on  their 
friendship. 

They  stopped  first  in  Norristown  for  the  tenth  anniversary 
meeting  of  the  Eastern  Pennsylvania  Anti-Slavery  Society, 
one  of  the  last  of  the  Garrisonian  redoubts.  Although  Garri- 
son and  Lucretia  Mott  spoke  long  and  forcibly,  Douglass  was 
the  star  attraction.  He  gave  a  sharp  and  pungent  exposition 
of  secessionist  doctrine,  not  even  pausing  when  a  gang  of 
rowdies  began  to  smash  the  windows  of  the  meetinghouse. 
On  the  trip  from  Philadelphia  to  Harrisburg  they  got  an- 
other taste  of  racial  prejudice  which  made  them  realize  how 
tolerant  New  England  really  was.  Douglass  had  taken  a  place 
in  the  rear  of  the  railroad  car  instead  of  the  customary  spot 
near  the  door.  Suddenly,  he  was  dragged  from  his  seat  and 
tossed  into  the  aisle  by  a  drunken  lawyer  who  threatened  to 
knock  his  teeth  down  his  throat.  He  got  slowly  to  his  feet 
and  methodically  dusted  himself  off.  Then,  staring  con- 
temptuously at  his  assailant,  he  told  him  that  only  the  ob- 
vious fact  that  he  was  no  gentleman  saved  him  from  a  duel 
with  any  weapons  he  might  choose.  The  nonresistant  Garri- 
son suffered  an  uneasy  moment  before  the  lawyer  mumbled 
another  insult  and  returned  to  his  seat. 

Harrisburg  lived  up  to  its  reputation  as  a  pro-slavery  town. 
Garrison  was  allowed  to  finish  his  lecture,  but  the  minute 
the  "nigger"  rose  to  speak,  the  hostile  audience  sprang  to 


COMPROMISE 347 

life.  It  was  the  most  violent  demonstration  Garrison  had  seen 
since  the  Boston  riot.  "They  came  equipped  with  rotten  eggs 
and  brickbats,  firecrackers  and  other  missiles,  and  made  use 
of  them  somewhat  freely/'  he  wrote  to  Helen,  "  —  breaking 
panes  of  glass,  and  soiling  the  clothes  of  some  who  were 
struck  by  the  eggs.  One  of  these  bespattered  my  head  and 
back  somewhat  freely."11  Douglass  was  struck  with  a  brick- 
bat; Garrison  escaped  with  only  a  moist  head. 

A  happier  reception  awaited  them  in  Pittsburgh,  where 
there  was  a  sizable  colony  of  free  Negroes.  A  twenty-piece 
band  waited  until  three  o'clock  in  the  morning  to  serenade 
Douglass  on  his  arrival,  and  he  had  to  speak  five  times  in 
three  days.  His  strong  baritone  voice  began  to  give  out;  by 
the  end  of  the  tour  he  could  hardly  croak.  Garrison  also 
drove  himself  hard,  speaking  several  times  a  day  and  then 
conversing  endlessly  with  his  hosts  after  his  performances. 
Following  an  unsatisfactory  meeting  in  New  Brighton,  Penn- 
sylvania, the  two  jaded  lecturers  were  joined  by  Stephen 
Foster,  fresh  from  the  East,  and  the  threesome  moved  on  to 
New  Lyme,  Ohio,  for  a  three-day  meeting  with  the  Western 
Anti-Slavery  Society.  The  Western  Society  was  the  lone 
outpost  of  Garrisonism  in  Ohio.  Its  members  had  decided  to 
pit  their  leader  and  his  secessionist  ideas  against  the  poEtical 
anti-slavery  of  Joshua  Giddings.  Giddings  had  been  a  young 
country  lawyer  when  Weld  converted  him  to  abolition  and, 
once  elected  to  Congress,  he  joined  John  Quincy  Adams  in 
fighting  for  the  right  of  petition.  He  was  a  durable  contestant, 
not  brilliant,  but  stubborn  and  opinionated.  At  the  time  of  the 
Creole  affair  he  showed  his  contempt  for  a  threatened  Whig 
vote  of  censure  by  resigning  his  seat,  standing  for  re-election, 
and  triumphantly  returning  to  the  House.  Giddings  was 
neither  a  profound  anti-slavery  theoretician  nor  an  especially 
acute  parliamentarian,  but  his  rough-and-ready  style  of  de~ 


348  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

bate  and  his  devotion  to  free  soil  principles  made  him  just  the 
man  to  force  Garrison  to  define  and  defend  disunion. 

As  he  first  explained  it,  Garrison's  doctrine  of  disunion  was 
a  pure  moral  abstraction  devoid  of  practical  considerations. 
"Friends  of  liberty  and  humanity  must  immediately  withdraw 
from  the  compact  of  bloody  and  deceitful  men,  to  cease 
striking  hands  with  adulterers."  Nothing  more.  Given  as  an 
ultimatum  from  God,  disunion  was  as  empty  of  specifics  as  a 
Cartesian  proposition.  Though  he  insisted  that  his  doctrine 
was  one  of  "order  and  obedience,"  he  had,  in  fact,  not  a 
formula  but  a  letter  of  marque  from  God.  Faith  in  God  ob- 
viated the  need  for  a  plan.  "The  form  of  government  that 
shall  succeed  the  present  government  of  the  United  States," 
he  wrote  in  1844,  "let  time  determine."12  It  would  be  a  waste 
of  effort  to  argue  the  question  until  all  the  people  were 
regenerated  and  turned  from  their  iniquity.  Meanwhile  the 
value  of  secessionist  agitation  lay  in  arousing  the  North,  and 
convulsing  the  South  by  showing  it  the  enormity  of  its  sin. 

The  Mexican  War  put  secession  in  a  new  light,  and  gradu- 
ally he  began  to  think  of  it  as  a  practical  solution  to  the  slavery 
problem.  "We  do  not  think  any  one  state  will  go  out  of  the 
Union  alone,"  he  wrote  in  May,  1847.  "The  movement  will 
be  simultaneous  throughout  New  England,  and  probably 
throughout  all  the  non-slaveholding  states,"  First  a  line  would 
be  drawn  separating  slave  from  free  states.  The  Southern 
states  would  have  to  combine  into  a  confederacy,  "for,  aside 
from  the  appalling  fact  that  she  would  have  three  millions  of 
enemies  in  her  midst,  smarting  from  numberless  wrongs  and 
outrages,  how  would  she  be  able  to  prevent  the  escape  of  any 
indefinite  number  of  her  slaves  to  the  new  republic?"  Even  a 
Southern  confederacy  could  not  hold  its  slaves,  who  would 
"leap  in  the  twinkling  of  an  eye,  and  be  beyond  the  reach 
of  danger."  What  state  would  then  be  willing  to  be  a  border 


COMPROMISE  349^ 

state?  "Each  would  inevitably  be  compelled  to  emancipate 
all  the  slaves  on  its  soil;  and  then  the  same  necessity  would 
be  imposed  upon  the  States  next  in  geographical  position; 
and  this  would  lead  to  a  general  and  peaceful  abolition 
throughout  the  entire  South."13  So  he  argued  now  to  the  dis- 
may of  Joshua  Giddings  and  his  Ohio  farmers.  Giddings 
proved  kind  and  generous,  but  Garrison  thought  his  argu- 
ments specious  and  reported  to  Helen  that  he  had  with  him 
"the  understanding  and  conscience"  of  the  overwhelming 
majority. 

At  Oberlin,  where  he  stopped  for  a  few  days,  he  examined 
the  wilderness  college  and  met  the  famous  Dr.  Finney.  He 
was  pleased  to  see  the  evangelistic  enterprise  flourishing  but 
objected  to  Oberlin's  ecclesiastical  leanings  which  tended  to 
"impair  the  strength  of  its  testimony,  and  diminish  the  power 
of  its  example."  Finney  surprised  him,  however,  by  telling 
the  graduating  class  that  they  must  be  "anti-devil  all  over" 
and  join  all  the  reforms  of  their  age.  Garrison  debated  dis- 
union again,  this  time  with  crusty  Asa  Mahan,  whose  opinions 
he  found  "perfectly  respectable"  but  "neither  vigorous  nor 
profound."14  He  left  for  Cleveland  satisfied  with  the  effect 
of  peaceable  secession  on  the  college. 

The  feverish  pace  and  the  intense  heat  of  the  Midwestern 
summer  were  taking  their  toll  Garrison's  agents  had  arranged 
three  and  sometimes  four  lectures  a  day,  often  twenty  miles 
apart.  He  spoke  in  steaming  lecture  halls  and  damp  pine 
groves,  wherever  he  could  collect  an  audience,  and  when 
Douglass's  voice  gave  out,  he  substituted  for  him.  "My  labors, 
for  the  last  four  weeks,  had  been  excessive  — in  severity  far 
exceeding  anything  in  my  experience.  Too  much  work  was 
laid  out  for  both  Douglass  and  myself,  to  be  completed  in  so 
short  a  time;  yet  it  was  natural  that  our  Ohio  friends  should 
wish  to  'make  the  most  of  us'  whilst  we  were  in  their  hands."15" 


350         THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

He  was  to  remain  in  their  hands  for  two  more  months:  in 
Cleveland  he  fell  desperately  ill  with  what  a  homeopathic 
surgeon  called  an  "intermittent  fever  with  a  tendency  towards 
typhoid."  For  nearly  six  weeks  he  lay  in  the  house  of  his 
Cleveland  friends  too  weak  to  move.  Meanwhile  Douglass 
left  for  Syracuse  and  Rochester  to  scout  out  a  site  for  his 
newspaper.  When  Garrison  recovered  and  found  that  he  had 
been  abandoned  in  his  illness  for  a  project  of  which  he 
strongly  disapproved,  he  was  furious  with  Douglass  and  com- 
plained bitterly  of  his  "impulsive,  inconsiderate  and  highly 
inconsistent"  behavior.16  In  November  he  was  enough  better 
to  come  home  to  Boston,  but  once  arrived  suffered  a  relapse 
and  remained  invalided  until  the  first  of  the  year. 

Once  he  recovered  from  his  Western  tour  he  plunged 
into  still  another  conference,  this  one  an  Anti-Sabbath  Con- 
vention at  Theodore  Parker's  Melodeon  to  help  protest  what 
Parker  called  the  fierce  "this-worldliness"  of  New  England. 
Garrison  and  Parker,  despite  the  great  intellectual  gulf  be- 
tween them,  were  kindred  souls.  Parker  had  been  converted 
to  abolition  largely  by  the  example  of  Garrison  and  his  fol- 
lowers and  had  also  succumbed  to  the  pull  of  universal  re- 
form. He  had  attended  the  Chardon  Street  Convention  and 
now  heartily  approved  of  another  such  meeting  to  destroy  the 
superstition  and  cant  which  kept  the  masses  "in  their  present 
low  state."17  He  had  no  fear  of  revolutions,  he  told  Garrison; 
Americans  had  conservative  principles  enough. 

Most  of  the  Garrisonians  rallied  to  the  call.  Phillips  refused 
to  attend,  and  Quincy  was  annoyed  with  Garrison  for  chasing 
the  will-o'-the-wisp  of  theological  problems  instead  of  con- 
centrating on  slavery.  "It  really  seems  as  if  the  Devil  always 
would  put  his  foot  in  it,"  he  complained,  "whenever  the  anti- 
slavery  cause  has  got  into  a  tolerable  position,  so  as  to  keep  it 


COMPROMISE 351 

in  hot  water."18  He  signed  the  call  anyway,  protesting  all  the 
while  against  Garrison's  private  idiosyncrasies. 

For  Garrison  the  very  existence  of  Massachusetts  blue  laws 
was  challenge  enough.  His  call  to  "The  Friends  of  Civil  and 
Religious  Liberty"  presented  still  another  preamble  and  a 
long  list  of  resolutions  attacking  a  "Sabbatizing  clergy"  and 
its  "merely  ceremonial  religion."  The  convention  debated  his 
propositions  with  imagination  and  gusto,  although  the  mem- 
bers could  agree  on  nothing  more  than  a  general  disapproval 
of  Sunday  laws.  The  accounts  in  the  Liberator,  however,  and 
its  editor's  vendetta  against  an  "arrogant  priesthood"  sug- 
gested nothing  less  than  a  theological  revolution. 

He  was  discovering  that  the  right  of  private  judgment  in 
theological  matters  led  straight  to  rationalism.  The  problem 
of  the  age  as  he  saw  it  was  that  of  winnowing  the  chaff  of 
superstitition  from  the  grain  of  Christian  ethics.  In  the  case 
of  dogma  this  seemed  simple  enough.  He  rejected  the  phrase 
"Mother  of  God"  as  absurd  and  blasphemous.  "If  Mary  was 
the  mother  of  God,  who  was  the  father  of  God?"  He  also 
objected  to  the  verse  in  Wesley's  hymn  which  began  "O  love 
divine!  what  hast  thou  done? /The  immortal  God  hath  died 
for  me!"  as  a  contradiction  in  terms.  The  question  of  Chris- 
tian ethics,  he  admitted,  posed  greater  difficulty.  He  insisted 
that  the  "wine"  mentioned  in  the  Bible  was  unfermented 
grape  juice,  but  argued  that  "the  expediency,  the  morality  of 
wine-drinking  is  not  to  be  settled  by  an  appeal  to  any  book." 
His  case  for  abstinence  rested  on  "chemical  analysis"  and  the 
moral  consequences  of  imbibing.  The  same  was  true  of  all  the 
obligations  of  men  to  their  fellow  men,  which  were  "in  no 
degree  affected  by  the  question  whether  miracles  were 
wrought  in  Judea  or  not,  with  whatever  interest  that  question 
may  be  invested."11* 

It  was  probably  Theodore  Parker  who  first  led  Garrison 


352  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

to  re-examine  the  doctrine  of  plenary  inspiration.  Parker's 
was  a  mind  tougher  and  better  trained  than  any  he  had  found 
yet,  and  his  "applied  Christianity"  struck  an  immediate  chord 
of  response.  Parker  believed  that  there  had  been  three  ages 
in  the  world,  the  age  of  sentiment,  the  age  of  ideas,  and  the 
age  of  action.  In  failing  to  socialize  Christianity  the  church 
lagged  behind  the  growth  of  modern  institutions.  The  first 
task  for  Christians  in  the  new  age,  he  believed,  was  to  disabuse 
themselves  of  superstition.  Garrison  was  greatly  impressed  with 
the  "Christ-like"  arguments  of  Parker.  In  an  editorial  attack- 
ing plenary  inspiration  he  spoke  of  the  Bible  for  the  first 
time  as  the  product  of  many  minds.  "To  say  that  everything 
contained  within  the  lids  of  the  Bible  is  divinely  inspired,  and 
to  insist  upon  the  dogma  as  fundamentally  important,  is  to 
give  utterance  to  a  bold  fiction,  and  to  require  the  suspension 
of  the  reasoning  faculties.  To  say  that  everything  in  the  Bible 
is  to  be  believed,  simply  because  it  is  found  in  that  volume, 
is  equally  absurd  and  pernicious."20  It  was  for  the  reason  to 
search  the  Scriptures  and  decide  what  was  true  or  false, 

If  Garrison's  ideas  seemed  saturated  with  the  musty  air  of 
eighteenth-century  deism,  it  was  because  he  took  them  from 
Tom  Paine,  whom  he  had  always  believed  "a  monster  of 
iniquity."  Reading  Paine  proved  a  stimulating  experience  for 
one  recently  delivered  from  "the  thralldom  of  tradition  and 
authority."  Paine  taught  him  to  apply  the  "test  of  just  criti- 
cism," to  measure  the  Bible  by  the  standards  of  reason  and 
utility,  the  facts  of  science,  historical  confirmation,  and  "the 
intuition  of  the  spirit."  When  Garrison  accepted  Professor 
Benjamin  Silliman's  findings  as  proof  that  the  Mosaic  cos- 
mogony was  untenable,  he  stood  in  the  best  deist  tradition. 
Like  Paine,  he  accepted  the  Enlightenment  fiction  derived  from 
Newton  that  the  physical  and  social  worlds  were  governed  by 
identical  laws.  The  Bible,  he  now  believed,  must  reinforce  the 


COMPROMISE 353 

findings  of  "human  experience."  By  "human  experience/'  how- 
ever, he  meant  no  such  rigid  intellectualisin  as  Paine  envisioned, 
but  a  "felt  experience,"  a  testimony  of  the  heart,  an  intuition 
wholly  compatible  with  his  orthodox  upbringing.  His  was 
the  kind  of  pseudo-rationalism  that  allowed  for  no  real  doubts 
as  to  the  superiority  of  Christianity  but  only  objected  to  the 
manner  in  which  its  truths  were  received.  His  hatred  of  insti- 
tutions and  authority  blinded  him  to  the  real  conflict  be- 
tween faith  and  reason  and  limited  his  revolt  to  a  petty  war 
against  a  weakened  church  and  outworn  doctrine.  Had  he 
been  able  to  advance  beyond  this  point  and  see  the  forces  of 
historicism  at  work,  he  might  have  achieved  a  serviceable 
rationalist  critique  based  on  associational  and  environmental 
psychology.  Clearly  this  was  too  much  for  a  mind  which 
drew  its  strength  not  from  intellect  but  from  will. 

Insofar  as  he  thought  about  philosophy  at  all  Garrison 
intuitively  held  that  there  were  fundamental  laws  of  human 
nature  instinctively  grasped  that  told  men  what  was  right. 
Thus  all  the  people  really  needed  was  conscience.  Paine's 
deism,  superficial  as  it  might  have  been,  had  the  merit  of 
being  militantly  anti-clerical  and  frankly  revolutionary.  When 
Paine  joined  the  French  Revolution  to  fight  for  the  rights  of 
man,  he  was  following  his  premises  to  their  logical  conclu- 
sion. He  identified  religious  superstition  with  corrupt  Euro- 
pean monarchy,  and  reason  with  New  World  democracy. 
Paine's  easy  assumptions  were  no  longer  valid  at  a  time  when 
the  separation  of  religion  and  politics  in  America  was  almost 
complete.  It  was  just  this  separation  of  religious  protest  from 
political  radicalism,  of  free  thought  from  class  conflict,  that 
gutted  Garrisonism  of  its  revolutionary  content.  In  Europe 
after  the  French  Revolution  anti-clericalism  joined  the  social 
revolution;  in  America  free  thought  grew  up  a  peaceable 
citizen.  Garrison  typified  this  American  penchant  for  com- 


354 


THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 


bining  reason  and  religion  into  a  belief  no  more  revolutionary 
than  social  gospelism.  He  personified  the  dilemma  of  the 
religions  radical  in  America,  the  avowed  nonrevolutionary 
who,  despite  himself,  made  a  revolution. 

The  year  1848  opened  on  a  note  of  hope  every  where- 
in Paris,  where  the  monarchy  was  broken  on  the  barricades, 
in  Berlin,  London  and  Vienna,  To  most  Americans  it  seemed 
as  though  they  had  finally  succeeded  in  exporting  their  own 
revolutionary  example,  that  Europe  had  finally  accepted  the 
blessings  of  democracy.  Garrison  shared  their  conviction. 
"The  republican  form  of  government  is  triumphantly  estab- 
lished in  France,"  he  announced  after  the  February  Days. 
"It  is,  however,  but  the  beginning  of  the  end  —  and  that  end 
is  the  downfall  of  every  throne  in  existence  within  a  score  of 
years."21  When  the  June  Days  brought  the  inevitable  dis- 
illusionment, he  was  too  busy  studying  the  revolution  in  the 
American  party  system  to  notice  the  failure  of  liberalism  in 
Europe.  The  Free  Soil  revolt,  though  it  too  proved  abortive, 
planted  the  slavery  issue  in  the  center  of  American  politics, 
where  it  remained  until  the  Civil  War. 

Both  Whigs  and  Democrats  faced  the  election  of  1848  with 
dissension  in  their  ranks.  Democratic  unrest  centered  in  up- 
state New  York,  where  the  party  was  divided  into  two  war- 
ring factions  —  Hunkers  and  Barnburners.  The  Barnburners 
were  a  curious  combination  of  idealists  and  opportunists. 
Some  of  them  were  simply  disgruntled  politicians  nursing 
hopes  of  regaining  lost  patronage;  but  there  were  others  like 
Preston  King,  David  Dudley  Field  and  William  CuHen  Bryant, 
the  able  editor  of  the  N&w  York  Evening  Post,  who  were 
moderate  abolitionists  ready  to  oppose  the  Hunkers  on  the 
question  of  extending  slavery.  In  Pennsylvania,  the  Democrats 
faced  incipient  rebellion  from  Wilmot  and  his  friends,  and  in 
Ohio,  Salmon  P.  Chase  threatened  party  regulars  with  revolt 


COMPROMISE ^  355 

When  the  Democratic  Convention  met  in  May  and  nominated 
the  expansionist  Cass,  the  Barnburners  walked  out.  Led  by 
the  wily  "Prince  John"  Van  Buren  and  harboring  a  number 
of  patronage-minded  party  hacks,  the  dissident  wing  of  the 
Democracy  nevertheless  formed  the  center  of  anti-slavery 
feeling  that  soon  produced  the  Free  Soil  Party. 

The  other  two  sources  of  the  Free  Soil  movement  were 
two  pockets  of  Whig  discontent,  one  in  Massachusetts  and 
the  other  in  Ohio.  Horace  Greeley  warned  his  fellow  Whigs 
at  the  beginning  of  the  year  that  if  they  nominated  Taylor, 
they  would  elect  him  but  destroy  the  Whig  Party.  Greeley 
was  right.  Beaten  by  the  regulars  at  the  nominating  conven- 
tion, the  "Young  Whigs"  bolted  and  held  their  own  conven- 
tion at  Worcester.  Insurgent  Whigs  in  Ohio  held  a  similar 
meeting,  where  they  called  for  a  national  convention  at 
Buffalo.  The  Free  Soil  roster  was  completed  when  the  rem- 
nants of  the  Liberty  Party  gave  up  their  candidates  and  a 
strong  anti-slavery  plank  to  join  the  insurgent  Whigs  and 
Democrats. 

Like  all  American  third  party  movements,  the  Free  Soil 
Party  was  an  amalgam  of  high-mindedness  and  chicanery.  Its 
platform  was  clear  enough:  slavery  was  declared  a  state  rather 
than  a  national  institution  and  as  such  must  be  excluded  from 
the  territories.  In  their  selection  of  a  candidate,  however,  the 
old  campaigners  showed  their  mastery  of  the  art  of  political 
jugglery.  The  Liberty  Party  men  were  reluctant  to  give  up 
their  candidate  Hale,  but  the  Conscience  Whigs,  who  held  the 
balance  of  power  and  were  hungry  for  votes,  swung  the 
nomination  to  Van  Buren.  Before  ten  thousand  spectators 
in  Buffalo's  City  Park  the  Free  Soilers  tied  their  political  for- 
tunes to  "free  soil,  free  speech,  free  labor,  free  men,"  and  the 
slightly  shopworn  reputation  of  "Little  Van." 

Garrison  was  vacationing  at  Northampton  with  his  brother- 


356  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

in-law  when  the  Free  Soilers  launched  their  series  of  rallies 
in  Massachusetts.  He  went  to  one  of  them  and  was  surprised 
to  find  many  of  his  old  colleagues  there.  The  North,  he  told 
them,  had  missed  its  best  chance  to  abolish  slavery  when 
Texas  was  annexed.  The  Free  Soil  platform  was  weaker  than 
a  spider's  web  —  "a  single  breath  of  the  Slave  Power  will 
blow  it  away."  Yet  if  Free  Soil  fell  far  short  of  disunion,  it 
was  still  a  step  toward  it  and  perhaps  the  beginning  of  the 
end.  His  problem,  therefore,  was  how  to  give  the  Free  Soilers 
due  credit  without  sanctioning  their  principles.  The  danger 
lay  in  the  temptation  they  offered  to  loyal  abolitionists  to 
bow  down  just  this  once  in  the  house  of  Rimmon  and  vote. 
"Calm  yet  earnest  appeals,"  he  announced,  "must  be  made  to 
our  friends  to  preserve  their  integrity,  and  not  lose  sight  of  the 
true  issue."22 

Whatever  the  issues,  the  results  of  the  election  of  1848 
were  never  in  doubt.  When  the  Northern  Whig  leaders 
reluctantly  swung  their  support  behind  Taylor,  his  victory 
was  assured.  He  and  Cass  each  carried  fifteen  states,  but 
Taylor  won  Massachusetts,  New  York,  Pennsylvania  and 
140,000  more  votes  than  his  opponent.  The  Free  Soil  Party 
received  300,000  votes  and  nine  seats  in  Congress,  and  in 
Massachusetts  it  ran  ahead  of  the  Democratic  ticket.  Garrison 
misjudged  its  strength  but  not  its  significance.  Free  Soil 
brought  an  end  to  the  uneasy  truce  between  North  and 
South. 

There  was  another  leader  worried  about  the  behavior  of 
his  followers  in  the  election  year  of  1848.  John  C  Calhoun 
took  the  occasion  of  his  visit  to  Charleston  in  the  summer  to 
apprise  his  constituents  of  a  Northern  plot  to  exclude  slavery 
from  all  of  the  territories.  How  could  South  Carolina  decide 
between  a  Michigan  Democrat  and  an  uncommitted  Whig? 
Let  the  state  ignore  the  Presidential  canvass  and  await  the 


COMPROMISE  357 

course  of  events.  If  the  North  was  not  to  be  deterred  from 
the  path  of  aggression,  the  South  would  unite  under  the 
leadership  of  South  Carolina  into  a  great  Southern  republican 
party  based  on  slavery.  Calhoun's  advice  was  not  lost  on  the 
New  England  press.  The  Boston  Recorder,  noting  the  similar- 
ity of  Garrison's  and  Calhoun's  solutions,  remarked  that  "the 
Garrison  faction  ought  to  admire  Mr.  Calhoun  for  he  is  aim- 
ing at  the  same  object  with  them,  though  with  a  thousand 
times  more  energy  and  likelihood  of  effecting  their  wishes/' 
Calhoun  had  forty  Congressmen  to  do  his  bidding,  and  Garri- 
son not  one.23 

Calhoun's  Congressmen  were  deployed  soon  after  the  sit- 
ting of  the  new  Congress  to  meet  the  attack  of  the  Free 
Soilers.  On  December  1 1,  1848,  the  Free  Soilers  in  the  House 
introduced  a  resolution  instructing  the  proper  committee 
to  bring  in  a  bill  prohibiting  the  slave  trade  in  the  Dis- 
trict of  Columbia.  This  move  sent  the  Southern  Congress- 
men scurrying  into  caucus,  from  which  they  emerged  with 
Calhoun's  "Address  of  the  Southern  Delegates  to  Congress  to 
their  Constituents"  calling  for  a  Southern  convention.  As 
propaganda  Calhoun's  "Southern  Address"  was  a  masterpiece; 
as  prophecy  it  showed  the  clear  but  tragic  vision  of  a  dying 
man.  The  South,  he  predicted,  would  never  give  up  slavery 
voluntarily.  When  emancipation  came,  it  would  be  forced 
on  the  South  by  a  federal  government  dominated  by  North- 
erners. "It  can  then  only  be  effected  by  the  prostration  of  the 
white  race;  and  that  would  necessarily  engender  the  bitterest 
feelings  of  hostility  between  them  and  the  North."  Garri- 
son's prediction  had  not  changed,  but  for  once  his  certainty 
allowed  him  to  be  brief.  "Our  Disunion  ground  is  invulner- 
able, and  to  it  all  parties  at  the  North  must  come  ere  long."24 

In  the  aftermath  of  the  Mexican  War  it  seemed  that  Garri- 
son and  Calhoun  spoke  the  mood  of  the  nation  as  it  ap~ 


3  $8  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

proached  the  problems  of  administering  the  new  territory. 
The  proposals  for  its  disposition  were  various,  but  the  lan- 
guage in  which  they  were  discussed  was  surprisingly  similar. 
Robert  Toombs  of  Georgia,  hitherto  considered  a  moderate, 
lashed  out  at  the  Free  Soilers  who  refused  to  abandon  the 
Wilmot  Proviso.  "I  do  not  hesitate  to  avow  before  this  House 
and  the  country,  and  in  the  presence  of  a  living  God,  that 
if  by  your  legislation  you  seek  to  drive  us  from  the  Territories 
and  to  abolish  slavery  in  the  District,  I  am  for  disunion;  and 
if  my  physical  courage  be  equal  to  the  maintenance  of  my 
convictions  of  right  and  duty,  I  will  devote  all  I  am  and  all  I 
have  to  its  consummation."  When  Edward  D.  Baker  of  Illinois 
denied  the  possibility  of  peaceful  secession,  Alexander  Ste- 
phens countered  with  an  ultimatum.  "I  tell  that  gentleman, 
whether  he  believes  it  or  not,  that  the  day  in  which  aggression 
is  consummated  on  any  portion  of  the  country,  this  Union 
is  dissolved."  Salmon  Chase  replied  for  the  Free  Soilers  by 
reminding  Southerners  that  "no  menace,  no  resolves  tending 
to  disunion,  no  intimations  of  the  probability  of  disunion,  in 
any  form,  will  move  us  from  the  path  which,  in  our  judg- 
ment, it  is  due  to  ourselves  and  the  people  we  represent  to 
pursue."  Edward  Everett,  hardly  an  abolitionist,  wrote  to 
his  friend  Nathan  Appleton  that  peaceful  separation  held 
the  only  answer  to  the  slavery  question. 

Public  opinion  in  both  sections  of  the  country  rushed 
ahead  of  Congressional  threats.  The  Sumter  (South  Carolina) 
Banner  called  for  "SECESSION  OF  THE  SLAVEHOLDING  STATES  IN 

A    BODY    FROM    THE    TJNION   AND    THEIR    FORMATION    INTO    A 

SEPARATE  REPUBLIC."  The  editor  of  the  Cleveland  Plain  Dealer 
declared  that  rather  than  see  slavery  extended  a  single  inch 
"we  would  see  this  Union  rent  asunder."  "The  North,"  re- 
ported another  Ohio  paper,  "is  determined  that  slavery  shall 
not  pollute  the  soil  of  lands  now  free  .  .  .  even  if  it  should 


COMPROMISE 


come  to  a  dissolution,  of  the  Union."  Thus,  at  a  time  when 
his  apparently  irresponsible  doctrine  of  disunion  and  a  suicidal 
policy  of  proscription  had  reduced  his  society  to  a  mere 
skeleton,  Garrison's  secessionist  ideas  were  reflected  in  and 
beginning  to  color  the  national  mood.  If  a  majority  of  Ameri- 
cans in  the  North  and  the  South  refused  to  accept  disunion 
and  tried  to  ignore  the  abolitionists  and  the  fire-eaters,  it  was 
because  the  slavery  issue  remained  an  abstraction,  not  unreal 
but  remote.  For  most  Northerners  in  1850  slavery  was  already 
a  moral  issue,  but  one  to  be  met  obliquely  by  a  policy  of 
containment  rather  than  head-on  by  immediate  emancipation. 
This  was  the  cautious  attitude  which  Clay  and  Douglas 
brought  to  the  Thirty-first  Congress  and  the  drafting  of  a 
compromise.  Clay's  ill-starred  Omnibus  Bill,  the  basis  of  the 
Compromise  of  1850,  was  an  attempt  to  meet  both  Free  Soil 
objectives  and  Southern  expansionist  aims.  As  finally  passed 
piecemeal  by  Congress  it  favored  the  South.  The  final  com- 
promise provided  for  the  admission  of  a  free  California  and 
established  governments  in  the  rest  of  the  territory;  it  as- 
sumed the  public  debt  of  Texas  and  redrew  its  western 
boundary  so  as  to  exclude  New  Mexico.  As  a  concession  to 
the  North  the  compromise  prohibited  the  slave  trade  in  the 
District  of  Columbia  but  stipulated  that  slavery  should  never 
be  abolished  there  without  the  consent  of  its  residents  or 
without  compensation.  It  further  declared  that  Congress  had 
no  power  to  interfere  with  the  interstate  skve  trade.  Finally 
and  most  significantly,  it  included  a  new  and  stringent  Fugi- 
tive Slave  Act.  Fugitive  slaves  were  denied  trial  by  jury  and 
could  not  testify  on  their  own  behalf.  The  power  of  enforce- 
ment was  given  to  federal  commissioners  who  received  a  fee 
of  ten  dollars  in  case  of  conviction,  only  five  if  the  fugitive 
was  freed.  This  provision,  Wendell  Phillips  said,  fixed  the 
price  of  a  South  Carolina  Negro  at  a  thousand  dollars  and 


360  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

that  of  a  Yankee's  soul  at  five.  Any  citizen  attempting  to 
prevent  the  arrest  of  a  fugitive  was  liable  to  a  fine  of  a  thou- 
sand dollars,  six  months'  imprisonment,  and  damages  up  to 
another  thousand  dollars.  The  Fugitive  Slave  Act  destroyed 
any  hope  for  a  satisfactory  solution  to  the  slavery  problem. 
Without  it  the  South  would  have  refused  the  compromise; 
with  it  the  compromise  was  worthless. 

The  Compromise  of  1850  was  the  work  of  elder  statesmen 
born  in  another  century  for  whom  the  Union  was  a  sacred  con- 
cept and  a  mystical  reality.  In  his  defense  of  the  compromise 
Webster  ridiculed  the  idea  of  disunion.  "Secession!  Peaceable 
secession!  Sir  [addressing  Calhoun  and,  by  implication,  Garri- 
son], your  eyes  and  mine  are  never  destined  to  see  that 
miracle."  Clay  asked  his  colleagues  to  weigh  the  issues  care- 
fully. "In  the  one  scale,  we  behold  sentiment,  sentiment, 
sentiment  alone;  in  the  other,  property,  the  social  fabric,  life, 
all  that  makes  life  desirable  and  happy."25  For  Clay  "senti- 
ment" meant  fanatical  belief  in  abstract  principles,  and  he 
and  Webster  feared  the  destructive  power  of  these  abstrac- 
tions. They  knew  the  difference  between  the  disruptive  prin- 
ciples of  the  Declaration  of  Independence  and  the  chastened 
realism  of  the  Founding  Fathers,  and  they  preferred  the  lat- 
ter. Both  men  were  to  die  within  two  years,  carrying  with 
them  to  the  grave  the  hope  for  a  pragmatic  solution  to  the 
slavery  problem. 

This  indictment  of  Garrison  was  not  wholly  unjust.  Garri- 
son knew  little  of  slavery  as  an  institution  and  cared  less.  He 
'was  an  abstractionist,  but  so  was  the  new  generation  of 
American  politicians  —  the  William  Lowndes  Yanceys,  Robert 
Barnwell  Rhetts,  James  Hammonds,  the  Chases,  Sewards  and 
Stevenses,  Wilsons,  and  Sumners.  So  too  were  the  American 
people  they  represented.  Americans  in  the  year  1850  were 
of  two  minds  about  themselves  and  their  destiny  — on  the 


COMPROMISE  361 

one  hand,  they  were  seeming  materialists  concerned  with 
wealth,  power  and  progress;  on  the  other,  idealists  perpetually 
dissatisfied  with  their  limited  achievements  which  they  viewed 
as  steppingstones  toward  a  final  spiritual  goal.  This  goal  was 
indicated  however  indistinctly  in  the  Declaration  of  Inde- 
pendence. Rufus  Choate  might  dismiss  the  Declaration  as  a 
collection  of  "sounding  generalities,"  but  for  most  Americans 
it  embodied  their  ideal  of  the  good  society.  The  gross  contra- 
diction of  slavery  in  a  nation  which  purported  to  believe  in 
the  equality  of  men  was  a  fact  with  which  they  knew  they 
must  reckon  eventually.  Try  as  they  might  to  hide  it  in  Mani- 
fest Destiny  and  an  expanding  frontier,  Americans  returned 
to  the  slavery  problem,  first  as  a  question  of  what  Clay  called 
"sentiment,"  but  then,  as  the  decade  progressed,  in  the  drama 
of  the  Kansas-Nebraska  Act  and  John  Brown's  raid.  By 
then  abolitionist  "sentiment"  had  become  reality. 

For  the  moment,  however,  cries  of  "The  Union  is  saved!" 
rang  through  Washington  and  echoed  in  New  York,  Balti- 
more, New  Orleans,  and  St.  Louis.  Bonfires  and  cannon 
salutes  welcomed  Clay  on  his  triumphal  journey  north  to  the 
Newport  beaches  while  Douglas  was  left  to  do  the  real  work 
of  patching  together  the  remnants  of  this  Omnibus  Bill.  In 
Boston  a  thousand  merchants  publicly  thanked  Webster  for 
recalling  them  to  their  duties  under  the  Constitution.  Doug- 
las promised  never  to  give  another  speech  on  slavery  and 
urged  his  colleagues  to  forget  the  subject.  Horace  Mann 
looked  around  at  the  remnants  of  the  Free  Soil  contingent 
in  Congress  and  sighed.  Webster  was  damned  by  the  aboli- 
tionists as  a  traitor  and  a  turncoat,  "the  saddest  sight  in  all 
the  Western  world."  Fallen  though  he  was,  he  was  still  power- 
ful enough  to  read  out  of  the  party  those  Free  Soil  Whigs 
who  were  "hostile  to  the  just  and  constitutional  rights  of  the 
South."  In  the  South  the  Nashville  Convention,  called  to 


362  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

protect  Southern  rights,  failed  to  keep  the  spirit  of  secession 
alive.  Supporters  of  the  compromise  closed  ranks,  and  the 
Rhetts,  McDonalds,  Yanceys,  and  Quitmans  were  left  to 
await  another  crisis.  In  Mississippi  the  radical  Jefferson  Davis 
was  defeated  for  governor  by  the  moderate  Henry  S.  Foote; 
and  the  state  convention  declared  that  the  right  of  secession 
was  "utterly  unsanctioned  by  the  Federal  Constitution."  In 
South  Carolina  Yancey  formed  his  Southern  Rights  Associ- 
ation without  the  help  of  the  planters,  who  were  no  longer 
in  the  mood  to  feed  the  hunger  of  the  fire-eaters.  Thirteen 
cents  a  pound  for  cotton  did  not  make  for  revolution. 

In  New  York,  where  Garrison  held  the  annual  meeting  of 
the  American  Anti-Slavery  Society  in  May,  1850,  merchants 
had  organized  a  Union  Safety  Committee  to  put  down  aboli- 
tionism and  use  their  commercial  ties  to  draw  the  Union 
back  together.  On  his  arrival  Garrison  found  public  opinion 
strongly  against  him.  For  weeks  Bennett's  Herald  had  ac- 
cused him  of  bringing  the  country  to  the  brink  of  dissolution. 
On  May  7  the  Herald  appealed  to  the  "regulators"  of  New 
York  opinion  to  see  to  it  that  Garrison  did  not  misrepresent 
the  views  of  the  city.  "The  Union  expects  every  man  to  do 
his  duty,"  ran  the  editorial,  "and  duty  to  the  Union,  in  the 
present  crisis,  points  out  to  us  that  we  should  allow  no  more 
fuel  to  be  placed  upon  the  fire  of  abolitionism  in  our  midst, 
when  we  can  prevent  it  by  sound  reasoning  and  calm  remon- 
strance." The  Herald  sounded  a  different  note  when  on  the 
day  of  the  meeting  it  called  Garrison  the  American  Robes- 
pierre whose  only  object  was  to  destroy,  and  called  upon 
New  Yorkers  to  destroy  him  first.26 

The  task  of  harassing  the  Garrisonians  at  the  annual  meet- 
ing fell  to  Captain  Isaiah  Rynders,  a  forty-six-year-old  Tam- 
many ward-heeler,  riverboat  tramp,  and  weigher  in  the  New 
York  Customs  House.  The  year  before,  Rynders  had  proved 


COMPROMISE ^^ 363 

his  talent  at  rabble-rousing  by  engineering  the  Astor  Place 
riot  against  the  English  actor  Macready.  Later  he  had  been 
arrested  for  the  brutal  beating  of  a  vagrant  in  a  New  York 
hotel.  He  was  just  the  man  for  the  job  Bennett  had  in  mind. 

On  the  opening  day  of  the  meeting  at  the  Broadway 
Tabernacle,  Rynders  planted  his  henchmen  in  the  balcony  to 
await  his  signal  Anticipating  trouble,  Garrison  had  taken 
the  precaution  of  inviting  the  chief  of  police  to  attend  the 
sessions,  and  the  chief  had  dispatched  a  precinct  captain  to 
keep  order.  To  avoid  notoriety  Garrison  had  even  exchanged 
his  reformer's  turned-down  collar  for  a  fashionable  stand-up 
model.  He  opened  the  meeting  by  reading  from  the  Scriptures 
a  passage  directed  at  the  new  Fugitive  Slave  Law.  "Associate 
yourselves,  O  ye  people,  and  ye  shall  be  broken  in  pieces; 
gird  yourselves,  and  ye  shall  be  broken  in  pieces.  .  .  .  They 
all  lie  in  wait  for  blood;  they  hunt  every  man  his  brother 
with  a  net.  .  .  .  Hide  the  outcasts,  betray  not  him  that 
wandereth;  let  mine  outcasts  dwell  with  thee;  be  thou  a  covert 
to  them  from  the  face  of  the  spoiler," 

Resigning  the  chair  to  Francis  Jackson,  he  took  the  floor 
and  began  to  deliver  a  cut-and-dried  speech  on  the  inconsist- 
ency of  American  religious  faith  with  American  practice. 
To  illustrate  his  argument  he  singled  out  the  Catholic  Church 
as  an  example  of  pro-slavery  feeling.  At  this  point  Rynders 
made  his  move.  Were  there  not  other  churches  just  as  guilty, 
he  demanded?  Garrison  quietly  admitted  that  there  were  and 
proceeded  to  name  the  Episcopal,  Methodist,  Baptist,  and 
Presbyterian  Churches.  Once  again  Rynders  bellowed  from 
his  post  in  the  organ  loft.  "Are  you  aware  that  the  slaves  in 
the  South  have  their  prayer-meetings  in  honor  of  Christ?" 

MR.  GARRISON:  —  Not  a  slaveholding  or  a  slave-breeding  Jesus. 
(Sensation.)  The  slaves  believe  in  a  Jesus  that  strikes  off  chains. 
In  this  country,  Jesus  has  become  obsolete.  A  profession  in  him  is 


364  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

no  longer  a  test.  Who  objects  to  his  course  in  Judea?  The  old 
Pharisees  are  extinct,  and  may  safely  be  denounced.  Jesus  is  the 
most  respectable  person  in  the  United  States.  (Great  sensation, 
and  murmurs  of  disapprobation.)  Jesus  sits  in  the  President's 
chair  in  the  United  States.  (A  thrill  of  horror  here  seemed  to  run 
through  the  assembly.)  Zachary  Taylor  sits  there,  which  is  the 
same  thing,  for  he  believes  in  Jesus.  He  believes  in  war,  and  the 
Jesus  that  'gave  the  Mexicans  hell.'  (Sensation,  uproar,  and  con- 
fusion.)27 

Instantly  Rynders  and  his  gang  rushed  for  the  stairs  and 
poured  out  on  the  stage.  Rynders  strode  up  to  Garrison  and 
waved  his  fist  in  his  face.  "I  will  not  allow  you  to  assail  the 
President  of  the  United  States.  You  shan't  do  it."  Calmly 
Garrison  told  Rynders  that  he  must  not  interrupt.  "We  go 
upon  the  principle  of  hearing  everybody.  If  you  wish  to 
speak,  I  will  keep  order,  and  you  shall  be  heard."  The  up- 
roar grew  louder. 

The  Hutchinson  family  broke  into  a  hymn,  but  Rynders 
and  his  men  drowned  them  out  with  catcalls  and  whistles. 
Violence  was  narrowly  averted  when  a  hotheaded  young 
abolitionist  leaped  to  the  platform  and  threatened  to  kill  the 
first  man  who  laid  a  hand  on  Garrison.  Suddenly  Francis 
Jackson  offered  Rynders  the  floor  when  Garrison  had  finished 
speaking,  whereupon  Garrison  sat  down  and  with  a  serene 
expression  waited  for  Rynders  to  proceed.  Rynders  ranted 
and  gesticulated,  ranging  up  and  down  the  aisles  followed  by 
his  henchman  "Professor  Grant."  In  a  wild  and  incoherent 
harangue  the  "Professor"  undertook  to  prove  that  physiognom- 
ically  Negroes  were  not  men  but  animals*  When  he  finished, 
Frederick  Douglass  stepped  to  the  front  of  the  platform  and 
drew  himself  up  to  his  full  height  for  a  reply.  "The  gentleman 
who  has  just  spoken  has  undertaken  to  prove  that  the  blacks 
are  not  human  beings.  He  has  examined  our  whole  confor- 


COMPROMISE  365 

mation.  I  cannot  follow  him  in  his  argument.  I  will  assist  him 
in  it,  however.  I  offer  myself  for  your  examination.  Am  I  a 
man?"  Still  Rynders  would  not  give  in.  Over  the  laughter  he 
shouted,  "You  are  not  a  black  man;  you  are  only  half  a  nig- 
ger" "Then,"  Douglass  replied  with  a  bow,  "I  am  half- 
brother  to  Captain  Rynders." 

Douglass  finished  by  calling  on  the  Reverend  Samuel  R. 
Ward,  a  Negro  so  black,  Phillips  said,  that  when  he  closed 
his  eyes  you  could  not  see  him.  "Well,  this  is  the  original 
nigger!"  Rynders  jeered.  Ward  acknowledged  the  remark 
with  a  flourish.  "Fve  heard  of  the  magnanimity  of  Captain 
Rynders,  but  the  half  has  not  been  told  me!"  He  went  on 
to  develop  Douglass's  theme,  admitting  the  failure  of  the 
free  Negro  to  establish  himself  in  the  North  and  arguing 
impressively  for  more  help  from  the  whites.  When  he  sat 
down,  Rynders  and  his  company  drifted  off  the  stage  and 
out  of  the  hall.  The  society  had  won  the  day. 

The  next  day  Rynders  returned  with  reinforcements  to 
finish  the  job  while  several  police  captains  nonchalantly 
looked  on.  Neither  Pillsbury  nor  Foster,  both  old  hands  at 
dealing  with  unruly  demonstrations,  were  able  to  make  them- 
selves heard  above  the  din.  Garrison  refused  to  capitulate. 
He  announced  that  free  speech  was  still  the  rule  and  that  all 
those  who  desired  should  receive  a  full  and  fair  hearing. 
Rynders,  realizing  how  narrowly  he  had  escaped  humiliation 
the  day  before,  refused  the  invitation  and  stuck  to  his  harass- 
ing tactics.  Then  Charles  Burleigh  cantered  to  the  rostrum, 
his  black  beard  and  long  curls  streaming  in  the  breeze.  "Shave 
that  tall  Christ  and  make  a  wig  for  Garrison,"  Rynders 
shouted.  Finally,  Rynders  and  his  gang,  who  knew  that  no 
one  would  stop  them,  took  over  the  meeting.  Marching  to 
the  platform  and  elbowing  the  abolitionists  aside,  they  noisily 
voted  a  resolution  that  Garrison's  "humanity-mongers"  con- 


366  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

fine  their  work  to  the  free  Negroes  in  the  North.  "Thus 
closed  anti-slavery  free  discussion  in  New  York  for  1850," 
noted  Greeley's  Tribune. 

"It  was  not  an  offence  against  the  abolitionists  that  the 
mob  committed  when  they  broke  up  Garrison's  meeting," 
commented  the  Philadelphia  Ledger,  "but  an  offence  against 
the  Constitution,  against  the  Union,  against  the  people,  against 
popular  rights  and  the  great  cause  of  human  freedom/'28  Nor 
was  it  a  ghostly  abstraction  that  Garrison  faced  in  the  Broad- 
way Tabernacle  but  a  live  issue  that  provoked  hatred  and 
violence.  For  a  brief  moment  he  had  recognized  the  inherent 
tragedy  of  the  slavery  question  when  he  found  himself 
cornered  by  Rynders  and  his  bullies,  who  had  no  intention 
of  accepting  his  rules.  Then,  sensing  the  futility  of  free  dis- 
cussion, he  called  on  the  police. 


16 
The  Great  Slave  Power  Conspiracy 


DURING  THE  DECADE  before  the  Civil  War,  Garrison's 
prestige  rose  as  his  personal  influence  began  to  decline. 
He  achieved  the  respect  he  longed  for  but  at  the  expense  of 
command.  "The  period  may  have  been  when  I  was  of  some 
consequence  to  the  anti-slavery  movement,"  he  told  his 
followers  in  1852,  "but  it  is  not  now.  The  cause  is  safe  in 
the  hands  of  its  friends."1  These  friends  were  more  than 
ever  a  comfort  to  him.  One  of  them,  Francis  Jackson,  bought 
him  a  new  house  in  Dix  Place;  another  invited  him  to  the 
Town  and  Country  Club;  others  induced  him  to  publish 
a  volume  of  speeches  and  poems  to  establish  himself  as  a 
man  of  letters.  Each  year  his  circle  of  admirers  widened. 
At  a  testimonial  dinner  for  John  P.  Hale  he  sat  with  Sumner, 
Wilson,  Horace  Mann,  Palfrey,  and  Richard  Henry  Dana, 
and  praised  the  politician  whom  five  years  ago  he  had  dis- 
missed as  half  an  abolitionist.  Suddenly  he  became  one  of  the 
most  popular  lecturers  on  the  anti-slavery  circuit.  Those 
who  used  to  come  to  hear  the  "monster"  now  gathered  to 
listen  to  a  "marvellous  proper  man."  His  friends  noted  with 
relief  the  passing  of  the  prejudice  against  him.  "He  speaks 
as  one  having  authority  &  office,"  Miller  McKim  wrote  to 
Sarah  Pugh.  "„  .  ,  He  strikes  a  chord  which  is  pure  &  vibrant, 
the  common  people  always  hear  him  gladly.  All  classes  are 


3 68  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

drawn  toward  him;  the  bad  respect  &  the  good  love  him."2 
He  was  acutely  conscious  of  this  new  respect  and  worried 
lest,  "ill-judged  and  unfairly  estimated,"  he  fail  to  exploit 
it.  He  avoided  hostile  audiences  that  in  the  old  days  he 
would  have  enjoyed  baiting.  Now  he  asked  whether  a  town 
was  "safe"  for  abolition  before  agreeing  to  speak  there,  not 
because  he  was  afraid  of  a  few  brickbats  but  because  he  hated 
to  risk  his  reputation  and  waste  precious  time.  As  he  ap- 
proached fifty  he  grew  closer  to  his  family  and  preferred 
the  company  of  his  children  to  barnstorming  around  the 
countryside  with  Pillsbury  and  Foster.  Although  he  was  in 
great  demand  as  a  lecturer  and  spoke  on  the  average  of  once 
a  week  to  anti-slavery  audiences  in  the  state,  he  could  hardly 
wait  to  get  back  to  Helen  and  the  children.  He  welcomed  the 
demands  that  Fanny  and  the  boys  made  on  him,  whether  it 
was  a  school  lesson  to  be  prepared  or  a  game  of  hide-and-seek. 
Gradually  he  was  acquiring  all  the  comfortable  habits  and  the 
outlook  of  middle-aged  respectability. 

Indeed,  the  whole  abolitionist  enterprise,  while  hardly 
popular,  enjoyed  a  new  regard  now  that  the  Boston  clique 
had  succeeded  in  raising  its  social  tone.  Phillips  and  Quincy 
were  chiefly  responsible  for  the  atmospheric  change  in  Bos- 
ton, Phillips  by  recruiting  new  talent  among  the  old  families, 
and  Quincy  by  weeding  out  the  more  unkempt  of  the  Gar- 
risonians.  Apostles  like  Charles  Burleigh  who  dramatized 
their  devotion  to  Christ  by  lecturing  in  full  beard  and  flowing 
robes  were  relegated  by  Quincy's  edict  to  those  parts  of  the 
state  which  were  least  civilized.  Henceforth,  Quincy  ordered, 
agents  should  appear  decently  bathed  and  clothed;  the  cause 
of  the  slave  was  not  to  be  advanced  by  apostolic  dirt.  "1  should 
prefer  not  to  have  hair  in  my  diocese,"  he  instructed  the 
General  Agent.3  In  place  of  beards  and  cranks,  perfectionists 
and  millenarians,  there  appeared  early  in  the  Fifties  a  group 


THE  GREAT   SLAVE  POWER  CONSPIRACY  369 

of  new  men,  younger  abolitionists  drawn  to  the  cause  less  by 
religious  zeal  than  by  their  hatred  of  the  Fugitive  Slave  Act 
—  Thomas  Higginson  from  Newburyport,  Dr.  Henry  Bow- 
ditch,  James  Freeman  Clarke  and  Charles  Stearns.  These  re- 
cruits were  moved  by  Phillips's  performances  and  the  sermons 
of  Parker  to  identify  themselves  openly  with  the  abolitionists. 
They  were  not  politicians,  though  they  knew  and  admired 
the  Young  Whigs,  and  they  were  inclined  to  be  impatient 
with  Garrison's  nonresistance  scruples.  Their  appearance  was 
proof  of  the  increased  moral  dimensions  of  the  slavery  crisis. 

There  were  still  many  New  Englanders  who  remained 
inveterate  haters  of  Garrison.  The  Boston  Irish  never  forgave 
him  for  his  savage  attack  on  their  idol  Father  Mathew,  who 
visited  the  United  States  in  1849.  Father  Mathew,  the  Apostle 
of  Temperance,  was  a  reform  priest  who  had  signed  the 
Irish  Appeal  back  in  1841  but  whose  primary  interest  was 
abolishing  Irish  whiskey.  Arrived  in  Boston  on  his  temperance 
mission,  he  ran  straight  into  an  abolitionist  trap  set  by  Garri- 
son, who  remembered  his  former  services  to  anti-slavery  and 
wanted  to  see  whether  he  could  work  a  miracle  upon  Irish 
opinion  in  Boston.  In  an  interview,  an  account  of  which 
Garrison  published  in  his  paper,  Father  Mathew  declined  to 
take  part  in  abolitionist  meetings  or  to  indulge  in  any  pro- 
nouncements that  might  jeopardize  the  cause  of  temperance. 
The  Liberator  pursued  him  on  his  tour  throughout  the 
country,  giving  readers  accounts  of  his  "perfidy77  and  "apos- 
tasy." The  Catholic  press  retorted  with  the  familiar  charge 
of  infidelity,  and  Garrison  shifted  his  sights  from  the  Irish 
priest  to  Catholic  conservatism.  Meanwhile  Father  Mathew 
completed  his  tour  of  the  country  and  returned  to  Ireland 
with  six  hundred  thousand  temperance  pledges  and  happy 
memories  of  the  "pride  and  glory77  of  the  United  States.4 

For  all  his  censures  of  Catholicism,  Garrison  was  no  bigot. 


370  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

Like  most  of  his  generation  of  reformers  he  believed  the 
dome  of  St.  Peter's  too  heavy,  and  he  liked  to  exhibit  Catho- 
lic opposition  to  anti-slavery  as  proof  of  what  Romanism  was 
in  the  nineteenth  century  and  what  the  liberties  of  Ameri- 
cans would  become  by  its  prevalence.  He  spoke  of  "the 
extreme  heresy  of  Rome  which  has  stultified  more  intellects 
and  ruined  more  souls  than  any  other,"  but  in  the  same 
breath  added  that  all  churches  were  "conventional,  mechan- 
ical, transient,  and  necessarily  imperfect  like  other  organiza- 
tions."5 He  judged  the  Catholic  Church  precisely  as  he  did  the 
various  Protestant  denominations  and  found  them  all  guilty 
of  pretensions  to  infallibility.  Catholicism  had  its  single  Pope, 
Protestantism  its  multitude  of  petty  popes.  Both  violated 
the  spirit  of  Christianity  by  exploiting  the  depravity  of  the 
human  heart.  His  anti-Catholic  prejudice  inherited  from  a 
Baptist  childhood  was  swallowed  in  perfectionism.  With  the 
triumph  of  eternal  life  would  come  the  destruction  of  both 
the  Catholic  hierarchy  and  all  earthly  institutions.  He  had 
nothing  but  contempt  for  the  nativism  of  the  Know-Nothings 
with  their  "perfectly  diabolical"  views  and  "monstrous"  as- 
sumption that  Protestant  Anglo-Saxons  were  the  rightful 
owners  of  the  United  States.6  He  saw  the  day  corning  when 
both  the  subtlety  of  the  Jesuits  and  the  nativist  repudiation 
of  Christianity  would  die  out. 

The  same  optimism  tinged  his  views  of  race  relations.  Be- 
cause he  felt  no  racial  prejudice  himself,  he  believed  that  the 
time  was  not  far  off  when  it  would  be  classed  with  hanging 
witches  as  a  barbaric  practice  not  worthy  of  enlightened 
Christians.  His  views  on  labor  — the  "perishing  classes"  he 
continued  to  call  them —  showed  the  same  unchecked  as- 
surance. He  criticized  New  England  industrialists  who  kept 
their  labor  force  at  subsistence  level,  and  demanded  "more 
systematic  and  energetic  measures  adopted  to  rescue  those 


THE  GREAT  SLAVE  POWER  CONSPIRACY  371 

already  sinking  in  the  mire  and  filth  of  poverty  and  crime, 
and  to  prevent  others  being  swept  into  the  same  vortex, 
whose  condition  and  tendencies  are  hurrying  them  thither."7 
On  the  other  hand,  he  admitted  that  he  had  no  plan  himself 
and  told  the  American  workingmen  that  for  the  present  they 
would  have  to  rely  on  the  "generous  impulses"  of  their 
betters.  His  belief  that  free  society  rested  on  an  intelligent 
workingclass  was  undercut  by  his  assumption  that  tech- 
nology and  unrestrained  competition  would  automatically 
create  one.  His  economic  views  tended  to  support  the  very 
doctrine  of  progress  which  his  moral  radicalism  protested 
so  vigorously.  Somehow  his  dream  of  the  destruction  of 
American  institutions  stopped  short  of  industrial  capitalism. 

Garrison's  failure  to  see  the  inconsistencies  of  private- 
profit  perfectionism  did  not  prevent  him  from  exposing  the 
hollow  patriotism  of  mid-century  America  in  the  Kossuth 
affair.  In  December,  1851,  Louis  Kossuth,  already  the  toast 
of  liberal  Europe  and  a  romantic  exile  par  excellence,  pre- 
pared the  United  States  for  his  debut  by  sending  ahead  a 
manifesto  which  proclaimed  his  complete  neutrality  on  the 
"domestic  issue"  of  slavery  and  requested  his  friends  to 
do  nothing  that  might  in  any  way  embarrass  the  cause  of 
Hungarian  freedom.  This  announcement  Garrison  inter- 
preted as  a  complete  surrender  to  the  slavocracy.  "He  means 
to  be  deaf,  dumb,  and  blind,  in  regard  to  it!  Like  the  recreant 
Father  MATHEW,  to  subserve  his  own  purpose,  and  to  secure 
the  favor  of  a  slaveholding  and  slave-breeding  people,  he 
skulks  —  he  dodges  —  he  plays  fast  and  loose  —  he  refuses  to 
see  a  stain  on  the  American  character,  any  inconsistency 
in  pretending  to  adore  liberty  and  at  the  same  time,  multiply- 
ing human  beings  for  the  auction  block  and  the  slave 
shambles."8 

In  eacposing  Kossuth's  nationalist  pretensions  Garrison  un- 


372  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

covered  a  fundamental  weakness  in  American  democratic 
thought.  Two  years  earlier  at  the  height  of  the  reaction  in 
Europe  he  had  written  an  editorial  comparing  Kossuth  and 
Jesus.  Admitting  that  Kossuth  was  a  "sublime  specimen'7  of 
patriotism,  he  nevertheless  questioned  the  scope  of  his  vision. 
"He  is  a  Hungarian,  as  Washington  was  an  American.  His 
country  is  bounded  by  a  few  degrees  of  latitude  and  longi- 
tude, and  covers  a  surface  of  some  thousands  of  square  miles." 
Kossuth  was  strictly  national,  concerned  solely  with  the 
independence  of  Hungary,  for  which  he  was  willing  to  dis- 
regard "all  the  obligations  of  morality."0  Garrison  never 
read  the  Hungarian  Declaration  of  Independence  and  was 
not  aware  that  Kossuth's  Magyar  ideals  did  not  extend  to 
Croats  and  Slavs.  The  best  expose  of  Hungarian  pretensions 
to  American  sympathy  were  two  articles  of  Francis  Bowen's 
in  the  North  American  Review  which  identified  the  am- 
biguous legacy  of  the  American  Declaration  of  Independence 
and  showed  how  Kossuth's  revolution  qualified  on  the  score 
of  self-determination  but,  in  denying  freedom  to  minority 
groups,  failed  the  test  of  civil  rights.10  Garrison  only  sensed 
what  Bowen  knew  for  a  fact,  that  national  unity  and  civil 
rights  were  not  always  compatible.  In  his  groping  way  he 
had  discovered  the  limits  of  nationalism  and  the  difficulties  of 
harmonizing  individual  liberty  and  national  self-determina- 
tion. 

All  of  Garrison's  reform  interests  suffered  from  his  in- 
ability to  bring  to  them  a  coherent  philosophy.  His  concern 
with  woman's  rights  was  at  best  sporadic.  He  supported  the 
Seneca  Falls  Convention  in  1848  and  attended  the  first 
woman's  rights  convention  in  Massachusetts  at  Worcester 
in  1850.  His  nonvoting  perfectionism,  however,  made  him 
something  less  than  an  enthusiastic  supporter  of  the  franchise 
for  women.  "I  want  the  women  to  have  the  right  to  vote,  and 


THE  GREAT   SLAVE  POWER  CONSPIRACY 373 

I  call  upon  them  to  demand  it  perseveringly  until  they  possess 
it.  When  they  have  obtained  it,  it  will  be  for  them  to  say 
whether  they  will  exercise  it  or  not."11  Elizabeth  Cady 
Stanton  and  Susan  B.  Anthony  might  have  been  pardoned 
for  believing  that  the  advancement  of  women  in  America 
was  a  matter  best  left  to  themselves. 

As  he  grew  older  he  became  fascinated  with  the  claims 
of  spiritualism  and  avidly  followed  the  debate  over  "spiritual 
manifestations,"  hoping  to  find  proof  of  their  reality.  One 
evening  he  attended  a  seance  held  by  Leah  Brown,  one  of 
the  Fox  Sisters,  and  watched  while  tables  were  overturned, 
chairs  flung  across  the  room,  and  even  heard  the  spirit  of 
Jesse  Hutchinson  rap  out  anti-slavery  hymn  tunes  on  the 
table.  He  was  convinced  that  no  satisfactory  answer  to  the 
occult  powers  of  mediums  had  been  established  by  their 
critics.  "If,  here  and  there,  an  individual  has  succeeded  in 
imitating  certain  sounds  that  are  made,  and  imposing  on  the 
credulity  of  those  present,  it  is  only  as  genuine  coin  is  often 
so  ingeniously  counterfeited  as  to  make  it  difficult  for  even 
the  money-changer  himself  to  detect  the  difference;  it  does 
not  touch  one  of  a  thousand  cases  where  the  parties  have  been 
above  reproach  and  beyond  suspicion."12  Nevertheless,  he 
was  troubled  by  the  fact  that  none  of  the  messages  from  the 
distinguished  inhabitants  of  the  spirit  world  bore  the  slightest 
resemblance  to  their  earthly  personalities.  One  message  from 
Nathaniel  Rogers  even  asked  forgiveness  for  quarreling  with 
him  while  in  the  flesh! 

Less  confusing  was  the  "Harmonial  Philosophy"  of  Andrew 
Jackson  Davis,  whose  "psychometric  examination"  of  public 
men  also  drew  on  occult  powers.  By  examining  a  lock  of 
Garrison's  hair  (more  would  have  been  difficult  to  find)  Davis 
was  able  to  throw  his  mind  into  a  clairvoyant  state  in  which 


374  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

his  subject's  true  character  appeared  clearly.  He  found  that 
Garrison  was  possessed  of  a  physical  system  "evenly  balanced 
and  well  developed"  and  a  temperament  "peculiarly  domes- 
tic and  social  .  .  .  His  is  a  high  order  of  intellect,  but  not  the 
highest.  It  is  more  than  usually  well  arranged  and  evenly 
balanced;  superior  in  this  particular  to  most  public  and 
literary  men."13  Some  minds,  Davis  concluded,  were  mere 
receptacles,  but  here  was  a  source. 

That  Garrison  was  a  source  of  the  myth  of  the  Great 
Slave  Power  Conspiracy  there  can  be  no  doubt.  The  political 
conflicts  of  the  Fifties  came  in  large  part  from  the  growing 
conviction  in  the  North  that  slavery  menaced  free  society. 
Ever  since  he  joined  Lundy,  Garrison  had  identified  anti- 
slavery  with  civil  liberties,  which  he  defined  as  "natural 
rights"  constituting  a  body  of  "higher  law."  Twenty-five 
years  of  agitation  had  failed  to  endow  his  abstractions  with 
the  breath  of  life,  but  after  1850  events  were  combining 
to  give  his  doctrine  of  secession  an  artificial  life. 

The  Northern  disunionists  [Garrison  wrote  in  1852],  affirm  that 
every  human  being  has  an  inalienable  right  to  liberty;  conse- 
quently, that  no  man  can  be  held  in  slavery  without  guilt;  and, 
theref  ore,  that  no  truce  is  to  be  made  with  the  slaveholder.  They 
declare  slavery  to  be  morally  and  politically  wrong,  and  its  ex- 
tinction essential  to  the  general  welfare;  hence,  that  neither  sanc- 
tion nor  toleration  is  to  be  extended  to  it  They  are  not  less 
tenacious,  not  less  inexorable,  and  certainly  not  less  consistent, 
than  the  Southern  disunionists.  The  issue,  therefore,  which  these 
parties  make,  separates  them  as  widely  from  each  other  as  heaven 
from  hell:  do  such  "extremes'  meet?  What  is  there  extreme  about 
it,  absurdly?  If  the  Lord  be  God,  serve  Mm;  if  Baal,  then  serve 
him.'  Is  it  a  case  for  conciliation,  for  'truck  and  dicker/  for  in- 
sisting upon  a  quid  pro  quo?  To  yield  anything,  on  either  side, 
is  to  yield  everything,14 


THE  GREAT  SLAVE  POWER  CONSPIRACY  375 

The  continuing  crisis  after  1850  made  these  words  ring  true. 

The  Fugitive  Slave  Law  raised  the  curtain  on  a  moral 
drama  that  ended  in  civil  war.  Only  gradually  did  the  slavery 
issue  emerge  as  its  tragic  theme,  and  even  then  it  often  wore 
the  mask  of  political  and  economic  interests.  Nor  can  it 
be  said  that  the  majority  of  the  people  in  the  North  ever 
confronted  it  squarely  until  they  were  forced  to,  but  chose 
instead  to  view  it  obliquely  as  a  territorial  problem.  Their 
consciences,  as  Garrison  reminded  them,  were  bounded  by 
the  3 6°  30'  parallel.  Still,  the  moral  question  was  omnipresent. 
It  arose  in  many  different  forms,  only  partly  obscured  by 
available  issues  — land  policy,  tariffs,  territorial  regulations 
—  but  giving  the  political  conflicts  of  the  decade  their  peculiar 
intensity.  Looked  at  in  one  way,  the  return  of  a  few  hundred 
escaped  slaves  was  not  worth  a  war,  and  it  may  have  seemed 
that  despite  the  obstructionist  tactics  of  the  anti-slavery  party, 
a  solution  might  have  been  found  short  of  violence.  For  those 
Bostonians,  however,  who  lined  the  streets  to  watch  Anthony 
Burns  march  back  to  slavery,  or  the  citizens  of  Syracuse 
who  rescued  the  Negro  Jerry  and  then  defied  the  authorities, 
the  Fugitive  Slave  Law  came  as  a  fulfillment  of  abolitionist 
prophecy.  "I  respect  the  Anti-slavery  society,"  Emerson 
wrote  in  the  wake  of  the  rescues.  "It  is  the  Cassandra  that  has 
foretold  all  that  has  befallen,  fact  for  fact,  years  ago." 

A  morality  play  is  a  drama  of  abstractions,  and  it  was 
with  abstractions  that  Americans  increasingly  concerned 
themselves  as  the  decade  moved  forward,  just  as  in  the  case 
of  the  Fugitive  Slave  Law  the  North  acted  out  of  moral 
revulsion  and  the  South  out  of  righteous  determination.  The 
country  was  entering  a  labyrinth  from  which  there  was  no 
sure  avenue  of  escape.  All  this  Garrison  had  foretold  years 
ago. 

The  Compromise  of  1850  brought  Garrison's  appeal  to  the 


376  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

law  of  nature  to  the  floor  of  Congress.  In  his  reply  to  Web- 
ster's Seventh  of  March  speech,  Seward  gave  the  "higher  law" 
doctrine  its  classic  expression.  "But  there  is  a  higher  law 
than  the  Constitution,"  he  told  Webster,  "which  regulates 
our  authority  over  the  domain,  and  devotes  it  to  the  same 
noble  purposes."  The  territory  of  the  United  States  was 
part  of  the  common  heritage  of  mankind,  and  the  people 
residing  there  were  stewards  of  God  entrusted  with  the 
enforcement  of  higher  law.  The  South  could  no  more  prevent 
the  discussion  of  slavery  than  it  could  stop  the  onrush  of 
progress.  The  agitation  against  slavery  would  not  stop, 
Seward  told  his  Southern  colleagues,  not  even  war  could 
prevent  it.  "It  will  go  on  until  you  shall  terminate  it  in  the 
only  way  in  which  any  State  or  nation  ever  terminated  it  — 
by  yielding  to  it  —  yielding  in  your  own  time,  and  in  your 
own  manner,  indeed,  but  nevertheless  yielding  to  the  progress 
of  emancipation." 

After  the  Compromise  of  1850  it  was  the  North  which 
appeared  to  be  bending  to  the  will  of  the  South  by  yielding 
to  the  Fugitive  Slave  Law.  This  law  brought  the  civil  rights 
issue  into  sharper  focus  than  at  any  time  since  the  battle 
over  petitions.  By  giving  the  slaveholder  the  legal  right  to 
recover  his  property  in  any  state  in  the  Union,  it  seemed 
clear  proof  of  Southern  intention  to  spread  slavery  through- 
out the  country  by  first  establishing  the  right  to  recapture 
slaves,  then  the  right  to  bring  them  into  the  free  states  and 
hold  them  there.  It  was  a  fact  that  only  a  relative  handful 
of  escaped  slaves  were  ever  returned  under  the  new  law. 
It  was  also  true  that  both  sections  exaggerated  the  sins  of 
the  other,  the  North  accusing  the  slaveowners  of  devilish 
designs  on  the  free  Negroes,  and  Southerners  accusing  North- 
ern states  of  obstructing  justice.  Yet  it  was  a  poor  kind  of 
justice  that  could  be  had  under  a  law  which  denied  trial  by 


THE   GREAT   SLAVE   POWER   CONSPIRACY  377 

jury  and  made  the  word  of  the  master  sufficient  to  establish 
title. 

Boston  abolitionists  met  the  law  with  a  new  theory  of 
nullification  and  a  brand  of  civil  disobedience  that  went  far 
beyond  Garrison's  nonresistance  creed.  Theodore  Parker  told 
his  congregation  at  the  Melodeon  that  when  governments 
perverted  their  functions  and  enacted  wickedness,  there  was 
no  law  left  but  natural  justice.  It  was  the  function  of  con- 
science to  discover  to  men  the  moral  law  of  God.  "Having 
determined  what  is  absolutely  right,  by  the  conscience  of 
God,  or  at  least  relatively  right,  according  to  my  conscience 
to-day,  then  it  becomes  my  duty  to  keep  it.  I  owe  it  to  God 
to  obey  His  law,  or  what  I  deem  His  law;  that  is  my  duty. 
...  I  owe  entire  allegiance  to  God."15  Garrison  went  to 
hear  Parker's  opinions  but  heard  instead  his  own  arguments, 
polished  a  little  and  tightened,  but  the  same  old  arguments 
for  the  ultimate  authority  of  conscience.  Parker  did  more 
than  preach;  he  helped  organize  Boston's  Vigilance  Com- 
mittee, elected  at  a  protest  meeting  at  Faneuil  Hall.  The 
purpose  of  the  Vigilance  Committee  was  to  protect  fugitives 
and  the  colored  inhabitants  of  Boston  and  vicinity  from  any 
persons  acting  under  the  law.  Once  again  the  city  witnessed 
a  mob  of  gentlemen  of  property  and  wealth  but  this  time 
on  the  side  of  anti-slavery.  The  directorate  included  Phillips, 
Samuel  Gridley  Howe,  Tom  Higginson,  Ellis  Gray  Loring, 
Henry  Bowditch,  Charles  Ellis,  and  the  Negro  lawyer  Lewis 
Hayden.  Garrison,  whose  nonresistance  opinions  were  widely 
known,  was  purposely  left  off  the  committee. 

At  first  the  Vigilance  Committee  occupied  itself  with 
printing  and  distributing  Parker's  handbills  which  warned 
the  Negroes  of  Boston  against  slave-hunters,  but  soon  it  had 
a  chance  to  act.  In  1848  William  and  Ellen  Craft,  two 
Georgia  slaves,  had  escaped  North  by  a  most  ingenious 


378  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

rase.  Ellen,  who  was  light-skinned,  bandaged  her  face  and 
passed  as  a  young  man  journeying  to  Philadelphia  for  medical 
consultation  attended  by  a  manservant.  From  Charleston  the 
Crafts  traveled  to  Richmond,  from  there  to  Baltimore, 
Philadelphia,  and  finally  Boston,  where  the  Boston  abolition- 
ists heralded  the  arrival  of  the  courageous  couple  and  publi- 
cized their  daring  escape.  They  had  lived  unmolested  in  the 
city  for  nearly  two  years  when  one  evening  in  October, 

1850,  Parker  came  home  to  find  Henry  Bowditch  waiting 
with  the  news  that  two  slave-catchers  from  Georgia  were 
in  town  looking  for  the  Crafts.  The  committee  sprang  into 
action.  They  spirited  William  off  to  Lewis  Hayden's  house 
and  provided  him  with  a  pistol.  Parker  himself  drove  Ellen 
to  Ellis  Gray  Loring's  home  in  Brookline,  where  she  re- 
mained until  the  committee  deemed  it  safe  for  her  to  return 
to  the  city.  For  another  week  Parker  kept  her  at  his  place, 
writing  his  sermons,  he  said,  with  a  brace  of  loaded  pistols 
before  him.  Then  he  marched  down  to  the  United  States 
Hotel,  where  the  unwelcome  guests  were  staying*  While  his 
Vigilance  Committee  lounged  ominously  in  the  lobby  and  up 
the  staircase,  Parker  held  a  conference  with  the  two  slave- 
catchers.  "I  told  them  that  they  were  not  safe  another  night," 
Parker  boasted.  "I  had  stood  between  them  and  violence 
once,  I  would  not  promise  to  do  it  again.  They  were  con- 
siderably frightened."16  The  agents  left  town  on  the  next 
train. 

The  Vigilance  Committee  took  a  long  step  toward  mob  rule 
in  the  case  of  "Shadrach,"  a  waiter  at  the  Cornhill  Coffee 
House.  Frederic  Wilkins,  or  Jenkins,  who  had  acquired  the 
name  Shadrach,  was  seized  on  the  morning  of  February  18, 

1851,  by  the  United  States  marshal  and  lodged  in  the  Court 
House  under  special  custody.  As  soon  as  the  Vigilance  Com- 
mittee heard  of  the  arrest,  Richard  Henry  Dana  hurried  to 


THE  GREAT   SLAVE  POWER  CONSPIRACY  379 

Chief  Justice  Lemuel  Shaw,  only  to  be  told  that  the  disposition 
of  a  fugitive  slave  was  too  frivolous  a  matter  for  a  writ  of  habeas 
corpus.  In  the  meantime  Lewis  Hayden  was  taking  matters 
into  his  own  hands.  He  rounded  up  twenty  men  from  "Nigger 
Hill"  behind  the  State  House  and  marched  into  the  Court 
House  and  straight  into  the  courtroom  with  his  guard.  Not 
a  soul  moved  to  stop  them  as  they  seized  Shadrach,  nearly 
tearing  his  clothes  off  his  back  in  the  process,  and  rushed 
him  down  the  stairs  "like  a  black  squall"  into  a  waiting 
carriage  that  drove  him  to  Cambridge,  the  first  stop  on 
the  northwest  road  to  Concord,  Leominster,  Vermont,  and 
finally  Canada.  The  rescue  of  Shadrach  went  far  beyond  the 
threat  of  violence.  Here  was  open  defiance  of  the  Fugitive 
Slave  Law.  From  Washington  came  immediate  orders  to 
prosecute  Hayden  and  the  rest  of  the  vigilantes  —  three  Ne- 
groes and  two  white  men.  The  case  ended  in  a  mistrial  when 
a  single  juror  stubbornly  held  out  for  acquittal.  A  year  or 
so  later  Dana  was  approached  by  a  quiet,  plain-looking  man 
who  asked  if  he  remembered  him. 

"Yes,"  Dana  replied  quickly.  "You  were  the  twelfth 
juror  in  Shadrach's  case." 

"That's  right!"  came  the  rejoinder.  "I  was  the  twelfth 
juror  in  that  case,  and  I  was  the  man  who  drove  Shadrach 
over  the  line."17 

Garrison's  nonresistance  scruples  did  not  prevent  him  from 
rejoicing  over  the  rescue  of  Shadrach.  "Thank  God  Shad- 
rach is  free!  and  not  only  free  but  safe  under  the  banner  of 
England."  A  quick  rush  on  the  Court  House,  nobody  hurt, 
nobody  wronged,  simply  a  sudden  transformation  of  a  slave 
into  a  free  man  "conducted  to  a  spot  whereon  he  can  glorify 
God  in  his  body  and  spirit,  which  are  his."  Millard  Fillmore 
might  issue  proclamations  and  Henry  Clay  propose  to  in- 
vestigate everyone  who  dared  peep  or  mutter  against  the 


380  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

law,  but  the  "poor,  hunted,  entrapped  fugitive  slave"  had  been 
freed!18  Before  Garrison  could  ponder  the  difficulties  of 
reconciling  lawbreaking  and  nonresistance,  the  Sims  case 
broke,  and  this  time  the  Vigilance  Committee  lost. 

Thomas  Sims,  a  boy  of  seventeen,  was  apprehended  on 
April  3,  1851,  and  charged  with  theft  of  the  clothes  he  wore 
and  with  being  a  fugitive  slave  from  Georgia.  His  lawyers, 
the  intrepid  Dana,  Samuel  Sewall  and  the  Democratic  poli- 
tician Robert  Rantoul,  were  as  able  counsel  as  the  city  of- 
fered. They  presented  Judge  Shaw  with  a  writ  of  habeas 
corpus  which  he  refused  to  honor,  and  then  prepared  to  fight 
a  delaying  action.  Thomas  Higginson,  the  young  firebrand 
from  Newburyport,  who  had  other  ideas,  rushed  down  to 
the  city  to  find  the  Vigilance  Committee  assembled  at  the 
Liberator  office  discussing  the  merits  of  various  rescue  schemes 
while  Garrison  sat  silently  composing  an  editorial.  The  com- 
mittee could  agree  on  no  workable  plan,  and  the  members 
adjourned  tired  and  discouraged  to  join  the  small  crowd 
of  demonstrators  outside  the  Court  House.  That  evening 
Higginson  concocted  a  harebrained  plan  whereby  on  a  given 
signal  Sims  would  leap  out  of  the  upper-story  window  and 
into  a  pile  of  mattresses  which  would  be  rushed  out  from  a 
nearby  alley;  but  Sims's  jailers  soon  dashed  his  hopes  for  a 
rescue  a  la  Dumas  by  putting  bars  on  the  windows  overnight. 
At  three  o'clock  in  the  morning  of  the  thirteenth,  word 
reached  the  committee  that  Sims  was  being  removed  to  a 
coastal  vessel  in  Boston  Harbor.  Parker,  Phillips,  Bowditch, 
Channing  and  the  others  had  just  time  to  improvise  a  coffin 
draped  in  black  and  form  a  death  watch  behind  the  proces- 
sion of  marshals  escorting  Sims.  Garrison  was  there  praying 
with  the  rest  for  the  deliverance  of  the  fugitive.  But  Sims 
was  not  to  be  delivered.  Three  times  the  marshal  had  tried 
to  buy  him  back,  and  three  times  Sims's  owner  had  refused. 


THE  GREAT   SLAVE  POWER  CONSPIRACY 


There  was  a  lot  more  than  the  freedom  of  one  Negro  at 
stake  —  slaveowners  wanted  bodily  proof  of  their  victory- 
over  the  State  of  Garrison. 

In  Syracuse  later  that  year  the  abolitionists  had  their  re- 
venge when  a  mob  overpowered  the  guard,  snatched  the 
Negro  "Jeriy"  and  bustled  him  off  to  Canada.  The  Jerry 
rescue  also  brought  indictments  —  eighteen  in  all  were  ar- 
raigned, among  them  Samuel  J.  May  and  Gerrit  Smith. 
May's  nonresistance  faith  had  broken  under  the  strain,  and 
he  wrote  to  Garrison  to  tell  him  so.  "Perhaps  you  will  think 
that  I  go  too  far  in  enjoining  it  upon  all  men  to  act  against 
the  Fugitive  Slave  Law  as  they  conscientiously  believe  to  be 
right,  even  if  it  be  to  fight  for  the  rescue  of  its  victims.  But 
I  know  not  what  counsel  to  give  them.  And  let  me  confess  to 
you,  that  when  I  saw  poor  Jerry  in  the  hands  of  the  official 
kidnappers,  I  could  not  preach  non-resistance  very  earnestly 
to  the  crowd  who  were  clamoring  for  his  release.  And  when 
I  found  that  he  had  been  rescued  without  serious  harm  to  any 
one,  I  was  as  uproarious  as  any  one  in  my  joy."19  May  told 
Garrison  that  if  the  abolitionists  did  not  kill  the  infernal  law, 
it  would  kill  them,  and  that  when  it  came  to  the  death- 
grapple,  no  man  who  believed  in  freedom  could  disarm  him- 
self. Garrison  was  no  longer  sure. 

He  replied  tentatively  to  the  vigilantes  in  a  long  review  of 
Harriet  Beecher  Stowe's  Uncle  Tonfs  Cabin,  a  critique  that 
betrayed  both  a  failure  of  imagination  and  a  confused  view 
of  the  nonresistance  question.  He  had  nothing  but  praise  for 
Mrs.  Stowe's  powers  of  characterization,  which,  he  con- 
fessed, set  his  nerves  trembling  and  made  his  heart  "grow 
liquid  as  water/'  He  was  particularly  moved  by  the  figure 
of  Uncle  Tom,  who  personified  the  triumph  of  Christian 
nonresistance.  "No  insult,  no  outrage,  no  suffering,  could 
ruffle  the  Christlike  meekness  of  his  spirit,  or  shake  the  stead- 


582  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

fastness  of  his  faith."20  That  the  slaves  ought  to  wait  patiently 
for  a  peaceful  deliverance  and  abstain  from  all  insurrectionary 
movements  went  without  saying,  but  what  of  those  white 
men  who  were  attempting  to  free  them?  In  his  mind  a  change 
in  complexion  did  not  materially  alter  the  case.  Violence 
and  the  love  of  Christ  were  still  irreconcilable,  and  theoreti- 
cally no  provocation  whatever  could  justify  a  resort  to  force. 
He  was  too  skilled  an  agitator,  however,  not  to  recognize  the 
possibilities  of  a  threatened  slave  insurrection;  and  once  again 
he  reminded  Southern  whites  that  with  their  revolutionary 
heritage  they  could  not  deny  the  right  of  resistance  to  their 
slaves.  If  this  warning  weakened  the  fiber  of  Christian  pa- 
cificism, so  did  his  evasions  of  the  question  of  disobeying  the 
Fugitive  Slave  Act.  "A  great  deal  is  said  at  the  present  time 
and  perhaps  not  too  much,  in  regard  to  the  Fugitive  Slave 
Law,"  he  told  an  audience  of  Pennsylvania  Quakers.  "Many 
persons  glory  in  their  hostility  to  it,  and  upon  this  capital 
they  set  up  an  anti-slavery  reputation.  But  opposition  to  that 
law  is  no  proof  in  itself  of  anti-slavery  fidelity.  That  law  is 
merely  incidental  to  slavery,  and  there  is  no  merit  in  opposi- 
tion which  extends  no  further  than  to  its  provisions.  Our  war- 
fare is  not  against  slavehunting  alone,  but  against  the  existence 
of  slavery."21  Yet  sooner  or  later,  as  May  had  warned,  he 
would  have  to  face  the  issue  of  resistance  to  government  and 
law,  if  not  over  the  question  of  returning  escaped  slaves, 
then  over  the  extension  of  slavery  into  the  territories* 

On  May  22,  1854,  the  Nebraska  Act  was  passed  "against 
the  strongest  possible  remonstrances,"  Garrison  wrote, 
"against  the  laws  of  God  and  the  rights  of  universal  man  — 
in  subversion  of  plighted  faith,  in  utter  disregard  of  the 
scorn  of  the  world,  and  for  purposes  as  diabolical  as  can 
be  conceived  of  or  consummated  here  on  earth."22  The  law 
was  based  on  three  principles:  popular  sovereignty,  the  right 


THE   GREAT  SLAVE  POWER   CONSPIRACY  383 

of  appeal  to  the  Supreme  Court,  and  repeal  of  the  Missouri 
Compromise.  Stephen  Douglas,  the  architect  of  the  law,  may 
have  believed  that  geography  and  climate  closed  Kansas  and 
Nebraska  to  slavery,  and  he  might  argue  that  it  was  the 
North,  not  the  South,  which  first  broke  the  Missouri  Compro- 
mise. None  of  these  explanations,  not  even  his  brilliant  de- 
fense of  the  bill  against  the  partisan  attacks  of  Seward  and 
Chase,  convinced  Northerners  of  his  realism  or  his  honesty. 
In  private  Douglas  called  slavery  "a  curse  beyond  computa- 
tion to  both  black  and  white,"  but  that  was  not  what  his  bill 
said.  His  bill  declared  that  the  Missouri  Compromise  violated 
the  principle  of  Congressional  nonintervention  with  slavery 
and  was  therefore  "inoperative  and  void."  Douglas  admitted 
that  his  philosophy  was  opportunistic  and  explained  to  his 
supporters  that  he  must  either  champion  the  policy  of  his 
party  "or  forfeit  forever  all  that  I  have  fought  for."23  Who 
was  he  to  oppose  his  individual  judgment  against  the  combined 
wisdom  of  a  great  party?  Douglas's  doctrine  of  popular 
sovereignty  was  a  confession  of  moral  bankruptcy:  it  gave 
the  people  in  the  territories  the  power  to  decide  the  slavery 
question  while  it  denied  that  there  were  any  principles 
needed  to  guide  them  in  their  choice.  His  Nebraska  Act 
enshrined  the  sovereignty  of  the  people  at  the  expense  of 
human  rights.  It  also  made  more  abolitionists  overnight  than 
Garrison  had  in  twenty  years. 

The  cost  of  the  Nebraska  Act  to  the  Democratic  Party 
proved  considerable.  Their  majority  of  eighty-four  in  the 
House  fell  to  a  minority  of  seventy-five;  of  the  forty-two 
Northern  Democrats  who  had  voted  for  the  bill,  only  seven 
were  re-elected.  Illinois  sent  Lymati  Trumbull,  an  anti- 
slavery  Whig,  to  join  Douglas  in  the  Senate.  The  National 
Intelligencer  estimated  that  the  party's  loss  in  popular  votes 
neared  350,000.  This,  however,  was  not  aH  gain  for  anti- 


384  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

slavery,  for  the  most  remarkable  aspect  of  the  1854  elections 
was  the  vote  polled  by  the  American  Party.  In  Massachusetts, 
Henry  Wilson  was  forced  to  run  on  the  nativist  ticket, 
and  in  New  York  the  Know-Nothings  overwhelmed  the 
abolitionists.  Seward  was  unavailable  to  head  a  new  party; 
Chase  was  available  but  not  well  enough  known  in  the  North- 
east; Sumner  was  able,  willing  and  unpopular;  Lincoln  was 
only  a  rising  figure  in  Illinois  politics.  "All  the  Whigs  ex- 
pressed disapproval  of  the  Nebraska  Bill,  but  take  no  action," 
Dana  commented  sadly.  "The  Democrats  differ  and  arc 
paralyzed  by  the  Executive.  .  .  .  We  can  have  no  effectual 
vent  for  opinion.  This  depresses  and  mortifies  us  to  the  ex- 
treme." The  Republican  convention  at  Ripon  was  still  two 
years  away. 

Garrison  clung  tenaciously  to  his  refusal  to  acknowledge 
political  action.  His  conclusions,  given  his  premises,  were 
logical  if  not  encouraging.  In  his  view,  only  the  strictest  of 
abolitionists  could  qualify  for  office,  and  such  men  would 
never  be  elected.  William  GoodelFs  candidacy  for  the  Presi- 
dency in  the  campaign  of  1852  he  called  "a  farce  in  one  act." 
His  mood  at  the  time  of  the  passing  of  the  Nebraska  Act  was 
summarized  in  his  resolution  offered  to  the  annual  meeting 
of  the  American  Society  declaring  that  "the  one  great  issue 
to  be  made  with  the  Slave  Power,  is,  THE  DISSOLUTION  OF 


THE  EXISTING  AMERICAN  UNION." 


The  week  of  May  24,  1854,  was  anniversary  week,  when 
all  the  benevolent  societies  as  well  as  the  Massachusetts  Anti- 
Slavery  Society  and  the  Woman's  Rights  conventioneers 
crowded  into  Boston.  On  the  evening  of  the  twenty-fourth, 
Anthony  Burns,  a  Negro  employee  of  a  Brattle  Street  clothing 
store  owner,  was  seized  on  his  way  home  from  work  and 
arrested  on  a  trumped-up  robbery  charge.  Taken  to  the 
Court  House,  he  was  accused  of  being  an  escaped  slave  and 


THE  GREAT  SLAVE  POWER  CONSPIRACY  385 

arrested  on  a  fugitive  slave  warrant  issued  by  United  States 
Commissioner  Edward  G.  Loring. 

That  evening  Burns  was  visited  in  his  cell  by  Colonel 
Charles  F.  Suttle  of  Alexandria,  Virginia,  his  former  master, 
and  William  Brent,  the  colonel's  agent.  The  two  men  extracted 
a  confession  from  Burns,  and  when  Parker  and  Phillips 
visited  him  the  following  morning,  he  told  them  of  his  dam- 
aging admission.  "I  shall  have  to  go  back,"  he  sighed.  "Mr. 
Suttle  knows  me  —  Brent  knows  me.  If  I  must  go  back,  I 
want  to  go  back  as  easy  as  I  can."  His  counsel  —  Dana  once 
more,  along  with  the  able  Negro  lawyer  Robert  Morris  — 
secured  a  postponement,  but  they  knew  that  the  legal  case 
was  hopeless.  The  disposition  of  Burns  would  rest  with  the 
citizens  of  Boston.  Two  plans  were  now  set  in  motion,  the 
first  a  protest  meeting  at  Faneuil  Hall,  the  second  a  wild  and 
dangerous  plan  of  Higginson's  to  use  the  momentum  of  the 
meeting  to  effect  a  rescue.  Let  everything  be  made  ready,  he 
explained,  by  posting  a  body  of  men  outside  the  Court  House. 
Then  send  some  loud-voiced  speaker  —  preferably  Phillips 
—  to  the  Faneuil  Hall  meeting  and  at  the  right  moment  let 
him  give  the  word  that  a  mob  was  already  attacking  the 
Court  House  and  send  the  crowd  pouring  into  Court  Square 
to  bring  out  Burns. 

Higginson's  scheme  failed  only  because  of  faulty  timing. 
He  and  his  followers,  armed  with  axes  and  meat  cleavers, 
rushed  the  door  of  the  Court  House  while  the  crowd  was 
still  listening  to  Phillips  in  Faneuil  Hall  They  were  met  by 
fifty  of  the  marshal's  men,  one  of  whom  was  killed  in  the 
rush.  Higginson  was  wounded  on  the  chin,  and,  dripping  with 
blood,  he  fell  back  with  his  men.  They  were  still  milling 
around  in  front  of  the  building  when  the  mob  arrived  from 
Faneuil  Hall  Among  the  new  arrivals  was  Bronson  Alcott, 
who  strolled  up  to  Higginson  and  with  orphic  innocence 


386  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

asked,  "Why  are  we  not  within?"  Informed  that  the  first 
attack  had  failed,  Alcott  nodded,  turned,  and  marched  slowly 
up  the  steps,  paused  while  bullets  whistled  past  his  head,  and 
then,  realizing  that  no  one  had  followed  him,  calmly  de- 
scended. Finally  reinforcements  from  the  police  arrived  and 
the  rescuers  wandered  off . 

Abolitionist  arrangements  to  buy  Burns's  freedom  were 
broken  off  when  District  Attorney  Benjamin  Franklin  Hallett 
intervened,  and  after  a  full  week's  deliberation  Commissioner 
Loring  pronounced  his  verdict  for  Suttle.  Then  came  a  wire 
from  President  Pierce  authorizing  Hallett  to  incur  any  ex- 
pense in  executing  the  law.  While  surly  crowds  hooted  and 
jeered,  police  and  militia  cleared  the  streets  from  the  Court 
House  to  Long  Wharf,  where  a  revenue  cutter  waited  to 
carry  the  fugitive  back  to  Virginia.  The  marshal's  posse,  led 
by  an  artillery  battalion  and  a  platoon  of  United  States 
Marines  and  followed  by  mounted  dragoons  and  lancers, 
marched  Burns  between  rows  of  special  police  who  held  back 
the  fifty  thousand  spectators.  As  Burns  remarked  to  the  sheriff, 
"There  was  lots  of  folks  to  see  a  colored  man  walk  down  the 
street." 

Phillips,  Parker  and  Higginson  were  indicted,  but  after 
months  of  legal  skirmishing  the  case  was  dropped.  Burns,  who 
had  been  sold  on  the  return  voyage,  was  purchased  from  his 
new  master  by  the  Boston  philanthropists  and  packed  off  to 
Oberlin  to  study  for  the  ministry.  Commissioner  Loring, 
Judge  of  Probate  and  lecturer  at  the  Harvard  Law  School, 
did  not  fare  so  well  The  women  of  Woburn  sent  him  thirty 
pieces  of  silver,  his  students  refused  to  attend  his  lectures, 
the  Board  of  Overseers  at  Harvard  declined  to  reappoint  him, 
and  a  petition  with  twelve  thousand  signatures  demanded 
his  removal  from  office.  He  was  finally  removed  by  the 
legislature  in  1858  and  given  an  appointment  by  Buchanan. 


THE  GREAT   SLAVE  POWER   CONSPIRACY 387 

Garrison  added  the  final  touch  to  the  case  of  Anthony 
Burns.  At  an  open-air  celebration  of  the  Fourth  of  July  in 
Framingham  Grove  he  solemnized  the  end  of  the  Union  in 
a  religious  rite.  First  he  read  the  usual  passage  from  the 
Scriptures.  After  laying  his  Bible  down  he  spoke  to  the 
crowd  in  measured  and  familiar  tones,  comparing  the  Decla- 
ration of  Independence  with  the  verdict  in  the  Burns  case. 
Then,  as  a  minister  might  announce  the  taking  of  the  sacra- 
ment, he  told  his  listeners  that  he  would  now  perform  an 
action  which  would  be  the  testimony  of  his  soul.  Slowly  he 
lighted  a  candle  on  the  table  before  him,  and,  picking  up  a 
copy  of  the  Fugitive  Slave  Law,  touched  a  corner  of  it  to 
the  flame  and  held  it  aloft,  intoning  the  words  "And  let  the 
people  say,  Amen."  "Amen,"  echoed  the  congregation.  Next 
he  burned  Loring's  decision  and  Judge  Curtis's  charge  to 
the  jury.  Each  time  he  repeated  the  incantatory  phrase,  and 
each  time  his  followers  murmured  the  response.  Finally,  he 
raised  a  copy  of  the  "covenant  with  death,"  the  United 
States  Constitution  itself,  and  as  it  burst  into  flames  pro- 
nounced judgment.  "So  perish  all  compromises  with  tyranny! 
And  let  the  people  say,  Amen! " 

As  the  communicants  repeated  the  word  for  the  last  time, 
he  stood  before  them  arms  extended.  The  verdict  had  been 
pronounced,  he  was  finished.  It  was  at  once  the  most  cal- 
culated and  the  most  dramatic  action  of  his  life,  more  im- 
pressive even  than  Burns's  march  through  the  city,  more 
electrifying  than  Phillips's  speech  in  Faneuil  Hall.  His  faithful 
were  pathetically  few,  but  that  did  not  matter  any  more. 
Now  the  whole  country  would  know  of  the  burning  of  their 
Constitution. 


Secession 


ON  THE  EVE  of  the  Presidential  election  of  1856  Horace 
Greeley  published  an  open  letter  to  "W.  L.  Garrison" 
in  the  Tribune  demanding  to  know  his  views  of  the  three 
candidates.  Greeley  had  followed  Garrison's  career  from  the 
beginning  and  thought  he  knew  the  extent  of  his  "no-govern- 
ment" heresies.  He  assumed  as  a  matter  of  course  that  the 
Liberator  would  be  hostile  to  John  C.  Fremont  as  well  as  to 
Buchanan  and  Millard  Fillmore,  that  is,  until  he  read  an 
editorial  of  Garrison's  that  changed  his  mind.  "As  against 
Buchanan  and  Fillmore,"  Garrison  had  written,  "it  seems  to 
us  the  sympathies  and  best  wishes  of  every  enlightened 
friend  of  freedom  must  be  on  the  side  of  Fr6mont;  so  that 
if  there  were  no  moral  barrier  to  our  voting,  and  we  had  a 
million  votes  to  bestow,  we  should  cast  them  all  for  the 
Republican  candidate."1 

Now  Greeley  knew  an  endorsement  when  he  saw  one, 
and  he  asked  Garrison  if  he  meant  what  he  said  in  announcing 
his  preference  for  Fremont  and  claiming  to  speak  for  the 
"universal  feeling"  of  the  ultra-abolitionists.  In  his  reply  Garri- 
son explained  that  he  favored  the  Pathfinder  because  Fr6mont 
was  "for  the  non-extension  of  slavery,  in  common  with  the 
great  body  of  the  people  of  the  North."2  His  remark  signaled 
a  retreat  from  perfectionism  and  nonresistance,  a  strategic 


SECESSION  389 

withdrawal  that  ended  in  a  rout  four  years  later  when  he  and 
his  followers  decided  to  prevent  the  national  division  they 
had  long  predicted. 

By  all  rights  Garrison  should  have  treated  Republicans  to 
the  same  scorn  he  had  bestowed  on  the  Free  Soilers  and  the 
Liberty  Party.  He  did  criticize  their  ideas  as  "feeble  and 
indefinite"  and  their  stand  on  slavery  as  "partial,  one-sided, 
geographical,"  but  these  shortcomings  he  now  forgave  in 
the  hope  that  new  leadership  would  strengthen  the  party's 
moral  fiber.3  "In  general  intelligence,  virtuous  character, 
humane  sentiment,  and  patriotic  feeling-— as  well  as  in  the 
object  it  is  seeking  to  accomplish  —  it  is  incomparably  better 
than  the  other  rival  parties;  and  its  success,  as  against  those 
parties,  will  be  a  cheering  sign  of  the  times."4  His  gradual 
drift  from  principles  to  personalities  and  a  growing  inclina- 
tion to  make  political  choices  while  eschewing  politics  began 
to  confuse  his  followers  and  eventually  drove  them  into  the 
Republican  camp  carrying  with  them,  so  they  thought,  their 
leader's  blessing. 

Wendell  Phillips  remained  loyal  to  moral  suasion,  but  for 
every  Phillips  there  were  ten  Sumners  and  Wilsons  determined 
to  build  their  careers  on  an  anti-slavery  platform.  Garrison 
retained  the  loyalty  of  a  few  partisans  whom  he  praised  for 
having  "the  same  estimate  of  men  and  institutions"  as  he 
did,  but  their  number  grew  less  each  year  and  their  usefulness 
questionable.  He  had  demanded  conformity  too  long  to 
change  now:  his  disciples  were  still  expected  to  study  the 
gospel  according  to  Saint  Liberator.  The  instincts  of  a  patriar- 
chal despot  continued  to  make  cooperation  with  him  hazard- 
ous and  usually  impossible.  Ten  years  after  his  quarrel  with 
Frederick  Douglass  he  still  refused  to  appear  on  the  plat- 
form with  him.  Gerrit  Smith,  a  perennial  victim  of  his  wrath, 
complained  more  than  once  of  Garrison's  rudeness  to  a 


3po  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  €ARRISON 

man  who  had  praised  him  at  home  and  abroad.  But  Garrison 
had  a  long  memory  for  slights  and  snubs.  Smith,  he  recalled, 
had  supported  both  Lewis  Tappan  and  his  clique  and 
Douglass  himself.  "I  must  say/'  he  sniffed,  ahe  has  a  singular 
method  of  praising  and  vindicating  me."5  No  man  could 
endorse  "malignant  enemies"  and  retain  the  respect  of  Wil- 
liam Lloyd  Garrison! 

The  old  Garrisonians  were  dying  off  —  Ellis  Gray  Loring, 
Charles  Hovey,  Arnold  Buffum,  and  Effingham  Capron, 
Hovey,  a  twenty-year  veteran,  left  a  forty-thousand-dollar 
trust  fund  that  kept  the  destitute  state  society  alive  until 
the  war.  In  1857  Birney  died,  and  Garrison  grudgingly  ad- 
mitted than  once  long  ago  he  had  served  the  cause  of  the 
slave  well.  Other  of  his  old  co-workers  had  retired,  Weld 
and  his  wife  and  sister-in-law  to  found  a  school,  Stanton  and 
Leavitt  to  join  the  Republicans.  Garrison  still  quarreled  with 
those  who  were  left.  One  such  wrangle  arose  out  of  his  un- 
fortunate attempt  at  humor  in  publicly  referring  to  Abby 
Kelley  Foster's  "cracked  voice  and  gray  hairs*"  Abby  bridled 
at  such  ungenerous  treatment  and  demanded  an  apology. 
Garrison  refused  —  "because  I  do  not  see  or  feel  that  I  have 
been  a  wrong-doer."  Abby  accused  him  of  belittling  her 
efforts  in  behalf  of  the  slave.  "Not  so,"  he  retorted.  "I  believe 
you  to  have  always  been  actuated  by  the  highest  and  purest 
motives,  however  lacking  in  judgment  or  consistency."6 
Letters  packed  with  recrimination  and  righteousness  shuttled 
back  and  forth  as  Abby  refused  to  forget  his  ungentlemanly 
behavior  and  he  declined  to  apologize. 

This  aggressive  self-righteousness,  tightening  as  the  years 
passed,  was  slowly  twisting  Garrison's  reform  impulse  into 
a  philosophy  of  obedience.  His  philosophy  he  summarized  in 
the  phrase  "loyalty  to  man,"  but  his  old  concern  with  worthi- 
ness betrayed  an  underlying  anxiety.  The  loyalty  of  the  re- 


SECESSION  391 

former,  he  explained,  comprises,  first  of  all,  loyalty  to  himself, 
striving  to  keep  himself  pure  from  sin  and  in  progress  toward 
holiness,  and  next,  to  his  fellow  men.  "We  cannot  bestow  any- 
thing upon  God.  But  if  we  love  Him,  and  wish  to  manifest 
our  love,  the  very  best  way  is  to  obey  Him;  and  every  pos- 
sible mode  of  obedience  to  Him  is  contained  in  these  two  — 
improving  ourselves,  and  helping  our  fellow  men."7  The 
order  of  duties  was  significant.  Only  when  a  reformer  met 
his  personal  obligation  to  God  was  he  free  to  impeach,  ad- 
monish, rebuke,  and,  finally,  "having  done  all,  TO  STAND."8 

To  stand  where?  It  was  all  very  well  to  insist  that  his 
view  of  reform  was  not  "partial"  but  "complete,"  yet  it  was 
difficult  to  see  how  the  peaceful  secession  of  Northern 
purists  would  bring  about  the  "immediate,  total  and  eternal 
overthrow  of  slavery."  Garrison  seemed  more  and  more 
occupied  with  the  role  of  Hebrew  prophet.  "One  thing  is 
very  palpable  —  our  likeness  as  a  people  to  the  Jews  of  old."0 
The  ancient  Jews  were  not  ashamed,  neither  did  they  blush, 
and  their  fate  had  been  decreed  by  an  angry  God.  America, 
hear  the  word  of  the  Lord  and  tremble!  Jehovah  would 
soon  exact  full  repentance  for  the  sin  of  disobedience.  Al- 
ready the  people  of  Kansas  were  reaping  the  whirlwind, 
and  their  trials  foreshadowed  greater  ones  to  come.  The  image 
of  the  avenging  destroyer,  the  God  of  wrath  whose  retribu- 
tion is  imminent,  began  to  haunt  him.  To  hasten  the  day  of 
reckoning  he  called  a  delegated  convention  of  the  free  states 
"for  the  purpose  of  taking  measures  to  effect  a  peaceable  with- 
drawal" from  the  Union.  The  Disunion  Convention,  as  it 
was  optimistically  called,  was  held  in  Worcester  in  January,. 

1857- 

The  Worcester  Convention  turned  out  to  be  "nothing 
more  than  a  Garrisonian  meeting"  with  none  but  diehard 
disunionists  on  hand.10  Political  abolitionists  were  unwilling 


392  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

to  involve  themselves  in  such  an  unpopular  affair.  Henry 
Wilson  and  Charles  Francis  Adams  sent  disapproving  letters, 
as  did  Amasa  Walker  and  Joshua  Giddings,  rejecting  what 
Adams  termed  Garrison's  "mistaken  theory  of  morals."  His 
Worcester  Convention  applied  this  theory  with  customary 
thoroughness  by  voting  the  inevitable  resolutions  calling  for 
Northern  secession.  In  his  defense  of  the  resolves  Garrison 
gave  one  of  the  most  effective  speeches  of  his  career.  "My 
reasons  for  leaving  the  Union,"  he  told  his  handful  of  diehard 
disunionists,  "are,  first,  because  of  the  nature  of  the  bond. 
I  would  not  stand  here  a  moment  were  it  not  that  this  is 
with  me  a  question  of  absolute  morality  —  of  obedience  to 
'higher  law.'  By  all  that  is  just  and  holy,  it  is  not  optional 
whether  you  or  I  shall  occupy  the  ground  of  Disunion."  The 
problem  was  not  one  of  expediency  or  the  incompatibility  of 
Northern  and  Southern  interests.  It  was  a  question  of  com- 
plicity —  of  Massachusetts  allied  with  South  Carolina,  Maine 
with  Alabama,  Vermont  with  Mississippi,  in  condoning 
wickedness.  His  own  difficulty,  he  said,  was  wholly  a  moral 
one  centered  on  the  unmistakable  fact  that  the  Union  was 
based  on  slavery.  "I  cannot  swear  to  uphold  it.  As  I  under- 
stand it,  they  who  ask  me  to  do  so,  ask  me  to  do  an  immoral 
act  —  to  stain  my  conscience  —  to  sin  against  God,  How  can  I 
do  this?"11 

At  the  end  of  his  speech  he  dismissed  Southern  secession 
threats  with  the  observation  that  there  was  not  a  single 
intelligent  slaveholder  who  favored  the  dissolution  of  the 
Union.  "I  do  not  care  how  much  they  hate  the  North,  and 
threaten  to  separate  from  us;  they  are  contemptible  numeri- 
cally, and  only  make  use  of  these  threats  to  bring  the  North 
down  on  her  knees  to  do  their  bidding,  in  order  to  save  the 
Union.  Not  one  of  them  is  willing  to  have  the  cord  cut*  and 
the  South  permitted  to  try  the  experiment,"  The  time  was 


SECESSION 393 

still  1857,  and  as  long  as  Southern  threats  need  not  be  taken 
seriously,  it  was  safe  to  preach  disunion. 

It  may  have  been  safe  to  advocate  Northern  secession,  but 
it  was  decidedly  unpopular.  Garrison's  renewed  agitation 
plunged  his  organization  into  disaster.  Wherever  he  lectured 
—  Montpelier,  Vermont;  Salem,  Ohio;  Northampton,  Massa- 
chusetts; Syracuse,  New  York  — people  were  hostile  and 
audiences  nonexistent.  Despondently  he  admitted  that  his 
old  friends  were  almost  entirely  discouraged  as  to  the  cause. 
"The  love  of  some  has  waxed  cold;  some  have  moved  away; 
some  have  failed  in  business;  some  have  been  drawn  into 
politics;  and  hardly  any  are  left  to  sympathize  with  and  sus- 
tain our  radical  position/'12  In  Altoona,  Pennsylvania,  twenty- 
five  people  attended  his  lecture,  the  smallest  audience  he 
ever  addressed.  In  Cortland,  New  York,  a  "mass  convention" 
turned  out  to  be  an  unenthusiastic  crowd  of  women.  He 
stuck  to  his  disunion  guns,  blasting  away  at  church  and  state, 
and  at  one  lecture  had  the  grim  satisfaction  "of  seeing  that 
my  shots  took  effect  by  several  wounded  birds  flying  from 
the  room."  He  never  stopped  hoping  that  some  good  would 
come  of  his  lectures  "beyond  what  is  apparent."13 

All  that  was  apparent  in  the  autumn  of  1857  when  he 
planned  a  national  disunion  convention  was  the  pathetically 
small  number  of  his  followers.  The  call  for  the  national 
meeting  was  signed  by  only  4200  men  and  1800  women,  most 
of  them  from  Massachusetts  and  Ohio.  They  believed,  in  the 
words  of  the  call,  that  when  a  majority  of  people  in  the 
North  joined  with  them,  they  would  "settle  this  question  of 
slavery  in  twenty-four  hours."14 

The  National  Disunion  Convention  was  never  held,  al- 
though a  small  group  of  Ohio  disunionists  finally  met  in 
Cleveland  against  their  leader's  advice.  Beginning  in  the 
summer  of  1857  a  financial  panic  paralyzed  American  benev- 


394  THE  LIBERATOR;  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

olence  along  with  the  business  of  the  country  and  gave 
Garrison  his  excuse  to  postpone  what  could  only  have  been 
a  fiasco.  The  panic  itself  he  first  explained  as  God's  judgment 
on  a  "fast  people."  In  a  more  reflective  mood  he  attributed 
it  to  the  unregulated  circulation  of  paper  money  and  the 
foolish  speculative  practices  of  the  people.  "The  great  majority 
of  the  people  are  still  in  leading-strings  —  ignorant,  credulous, 
unreflecting  —  the  victims  of  demagogueism  [sic]  or  financial 
swindling  —  though  assuming  to  hold  the  reins  of  government 
in  their  own  hands.  They  are  blind  to  their  own  interests,  and 
on  the  whole  prefer  to  be  adroitly  cheated,  rather  than  hon- 
estly dealt  with."15  Beneath  the  surface  of  his  Christian  egali- 
tarianism  there  lurked  the  old  Federalist  arrogance  and 
contempt  of  the  masses. 

The  Panic  of  '57  stirred  the  ashes  of  religious  revival  which 
flared  intermittently  during  the  next  year.  Garrison  scoffed 
at  it.  A  genuine  revival,  he  sneered,  would  scare  James 
Buchanan  so  he  could  not  sleep  o'  nights  and  drive  the  South 
to  lynch  its  preachers.  All  this  talk  of  coming  to  Christ, 
however,  was  just  so  much  empty  wind.  It  defined  nothing, 
failed  to  reach  the  heart,  and  was  wholly  destitute  of  moral 
courage.  If  the  history  of  religious  awakenings  was  any  indi- 
cation, the  revival  of  1858,  he  predicted,  would  promote 
meanness  rather  than  manliness,  delusion  instead  of  intelli- 
gence,16 

His  new  emphasis  on  the  secular  gave  a  revolutionary  edge 
to  his  disunionism.  Abolitionists,  he  now  believed,  needed  no 
Scriptural  proof  for  their  convictions;  they  did  not  need  to 
go  to  the  Bible  to  prove  their  right  to  freedom.  The  very 
thought  was  absurd.  "How  dare  you  make  it  a  Bible  question 
at  all?"  he  demanded.  The  Declaration  of  Independence  pre- 
cluded all  appeals  to  parchment,  logic,  or  history;  liberty 
needed  no  Biblical  sanction.  At  last  the  American  Revolution 


SECESSION ^ 395 

and  the  rights  of  the  Negro  stood  free  from  the  coils  of 
scriptural  precedent. 

There  was  poetic  justice  in  the  fact  that  while  the  North 
overwhelmingly  rejected  Garrison's  plea  for  peaceful  seces- 
sion, developments  in  Kansas  made  his  predictions  of  violence 
come  true.  In  the  first  place,  the  Dred  Scott  decision  ap- 
peared to  support  his  pro-slavery  interpretation  of  the  Con- 
stitution. The  majority  decision,  which  he  called  "undeniably 
a  party  one,"  appeared  to  lead  the  North  either  to  war  or 
secession.  Reports  from  Kansas  in  the  summer  of  1857  showed 
how  ill-equipped  the  Free  Soil  Republicans  were  to  deal  with 
demon  Democracy.  Here  was  a  territory  where  Free  Soilers 
outnumbered  the  border  ruffians  five  to  one,  and  what  did 
they  have  to  show  for  their  numbers?  The  Lecornpton  Con- 
stitution. "The  people  of  that  territory  are  as  completely 
subjugated  as  the  populace  of  France  or  Italy.  .  .  .  What 
hope  is  there  for  Kansas?"17  Kansas,  he  declared,  needed 
"repentance  and  a  thorough  reformation."  What  kind  of 
reformation  —  whether  the  strong  hand  of  Jim  Lane  or  the 
angry  one  of  John  Brown  —  he  did  not  say.  To  demand  as  he 
did  that  the  North  stand  "boldly  and  uncompromisingly" 
was  to  call  it  to  action,  and  a  call  to  action  required  a  plan. 
His  lack  of  a  plan  precipitated  the  major  crisis  in  his  life. 

The  crisis  began  at  a  meeting  of  the  society  he  had  founded 
in  1832,  and  it  came  from  his  old  radical  confederates  the 
Fosters.  Abby  and  Stephen  Foster  had  labored  in  the  rocky 
vineyard  of  Garrisonism  for  fifteen  years,  but  lately  they  had 
begun  to  watch  political  developments  closely  and  particu- 
larly the  rapid  growth  of  the  Republican  Party.  They  con- 
cluded that  the  North  was  no  longer  to  be  aroused  by  preach- 
ing, and  they  chose  the  occasion  of  the  annual  meeting  of 
the  Massachusetts  Society  in  January,  1858,  to  tell  Garrison 
so.  Foster  admitted  that  the  time  was  when  moral  suasion 


396  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

had  done  great  work  in  the  land,  but  he  pointed  to  the  small 
audience  before  him  as  evidence  that  the  old  ways  were  out- 
moded. "Our  people  believe  in  a  government  of  force;  but 
we  are  asking  them  to  take  an  essentially  non-resistant  posi- 
tion which  is  wholly  inadequate  to  the  exigencies  of  the  case. 
They  wish  to  vote."  Up  jumped  Higginson  to  agree.  "The 
moral  position  of  this  society,"  he  told  Garrison,  "is  the 
highest  and  noblest  possible,  but  their  practical  position  does 
not  take  hold  of  the  mind  of  the  community."  Whether  aboli- 
tionists ought  to  join  the  Republicans  or  strike  out  on  their 
own  he  did  not  know,  but  the  Fosters  were  in  favor  of  a 
new  anti-slavery  party.  The  general  discontent  was  unmis- 
takable as  Garrison's  colleagues  sat  awaiting  his  reply. 

His  answer  was  hardly  reassuring.  He  told  his  abolitionists 
that  they  were  not  responsible  for  the  way  in  which  the 
people  received  their  warnings.  "It  is  my  duty  to  warn  them," 
he  said  fixing  his  eye  on  the  Fosters,  "It  is  not  my  duty  to 
contrive  ways  for  men  in  Union  with  slavery,  and  determined 
to  vote  without  regard  to  the  moral  character  of  their  act,  to 
carry  out  their  low  ideas,  and  I  shall  do  no  such  work,"18 
He  had  shown  Massachusetts  her  shame  and  demanded  that 
she  renounce  her  compact  with  death.  Was  not  this  work 
and  work  enough?  Clearly  in  1858  it  was  not.  Although  he 
still  controlled  enough  votes  to  defeat  Foster's  bid  for  a 
political  party,  the  meaning  of  the  revolt  was  not  lost  on 
him.  Foster  was  asking  him  to  choose  between  perfectionism 
and  abolition,  between  religion  and  reform,  and  behind  the 
demand  lay  the  failure  of  a  thirty-year  experiment  to  unite 
them.  He  was  pondering  the  dilemma  when  John  Brown, 
taking  the  law  into  his  own  hands  at  Harpers  Ferry,  suddenly 
showed  him  the  logical  consequences  of  his  doctrine  of  con- 
science. 

He  had  first  met  John  Brown  at  Theodore  Parker's  home 


SECESSION  397 

in  January,  1857.  While  Parker  and  the  other  guests  sat 
listening,  Brown  matched  his  New  Testament  pacifism  with 
dire  prophecies  from  the  Old.  Two  years  later  Brown  at- 
tended the  New  England  Anti-Slavery  Convention,  where 
after  a  full  day  of  speeches  he  was  heard  to  mutter  that  "these 
men  are  all  talk;  what  is  needed  is  action  —  action!"  His  own 
brand  of  action  forced  Garrison  to  reconsider  and  then  aban- 
don his  peace  principles. 

Garrison  never  doubted  that  Brown  believed  himself  di- 
vinely commissioned  to  deliver  the  slave  or  that  the  old 
man  and  his  sons  were  brave  and  heroic  men.  Yet  he  could 
not  help  thinking  him  misguided  and  rash,  "powerfully 
wrought  upon  by  the  trials  through  which  he  has  passed." 
By  the  standards  of  Bunker  Hill,  Brown  died  a  patriot  and 
a  martyr.  But  by  the  standard  of  peace?  Was  there  a  place  in 
history  for  the  Gideons,  the  Joshuas  and  Davids?  He  did  not 
know.19 

The  question  of  Brown's  guilt  continued  to  plague  him 
until  finally  he  too  capitulated  to  the  need  for  violence.  At  a 
memorial  meeting  held  in  Tremont  Temple  he  read  Brown's 
address  to  the  court  and  then  requested  permission  to  com- 
ment on  it.  Then  he  asked  how  many  nonresistants  there  were 
in  the  audience,  and  when  only  a  single  voice  cried  out,  he 
paused  a  moment  and  then  said  that  he  too  was  a  peace  man 
who  had  labored  unremittingly  to  effect  the  peaceful  aboli- 
tion of  slavery. 

Yet,  as  a  peace  man  —  I  am  prepared  to  say:  Success  to  every  slave 
insurrection  at  the  South,  and  in  every  slave  country.'  And  I  do 
not  see  how  I  compromise  or  stain  my  peace  profession  in  making 
that  declaration.  Whenever  there  is  a  contest  between  the  op- 
pressed and  the  oppressor,  —  the  weapons  being  equal  between 
the  parties,  —  God  knows  that  my  heart  must  be  with  the  op- 
pressed and  always  against  the  oppressor.  Therefore,  whenever 


398  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

commenced,  I  cannot  but  wish  success  to  all  slave  insurrections. 
I  thank  God  when  men  who  believe  in  the  right  and  duty  of 
wielding  carnal  weapons,  are  so  far  advanced  that  they  will  take 
those  weapons  out  of  the  scale  of  despotism,  and  throw  them  into 
the  scale  of  freedom.  It  is  an  indication  of  progress  and  positive 
moral  growth;  it  is  one  way  to  get  up  to  the  sublime  platform  of 
non-resistance;  and  it  is  God's  method  of  dealing  retribution 
upon  the  head  of  the  tyrant.  Rather  than  see  men  wearing  their 
chains  in  a  cowardly  and  servile  spirit,  1  would,  as  an  advocate  of 
peace,,  much  rather  see  them  breaking  the  head  of  the  tyrant  with 
their  chains.  Give  me,  as  a  non-resistant.  Bunker  Hill,  and  Lexing- 
ton, and  Concord,  rather  than  the  cowardice  and  servility  of  a 
Southern  slave-plantation?® 

Free  at  last  from  his  pacifist  scruples,  he  readily  became 
reconciled  to  the  Republican  Party.  Though  he  still  spoke 
of  it  as  a  "time-serving,  a  temporizing,  a  cowardly  party,"  he 
hoped  that  his  renewed  disunionist  agitation  might  yet  save 
it.  Secretly  he  hoped  that  the  Republicans,  short  of  dis- 
union, might  check  the  spread  of  slavery  by  a  show  of 
strength.  Publicly  he  declared  that  they  could  "create  such 
a  moral  and  religious  sentiment  against  slavery  as  shall  mould 
all  parties  and  sects  to  effect  its  overthrow."  If  Republicans 
wondered  why  he  still  refused  to  vote,  he  answered  that  it 
was  because  the  greater  included  the  less,  that  the  immediate 
abolition  of  slavery  was  incomparably  more  important  than 
preventing  its  extension.  His  refusal  to  vote,  however,  signi- 
fied no  lack  of  interest  in  the  corning  Presidential  campaign, 
"for  in  the  various  phases  of  that  struggle,  we  recognize 
either  an  approximation  to,  or  receding  from,  the  standard 
of  equal  justice  and  impartial  freedom  which  we  have  so 
long  advocated."21 

From  moderate  support  to  outright  enthusiasm  was  only  a 
step,  and  this  step  he  took  early  in  the  election  year  of  1860. 


SECESSION 399 

He  discerned  a  marvelous  change  in  Northern  opinion:  the 
battle  of  free  speech  had  been  won  and  the  conflict  between 
freedom  and  slavery  was  now  agreed  to  be  irrepressible  — 
"not  of  man's  devising,  but  of  God's  ordering."  It  was  deep- 
ening every  day  in  spite  of  political  cunning  and  religious 
sorcery.  "The  pending  Presidential  election,"  he  wrote  in 
September,  "witnesses  a  marked  division  between  the  politi- 
cal forces  of  the  North  and  of  the  South;  and  though  it 
relates,  ostensibly,  solely  to  the  question  of  the  further  ex- 
tension of  slavery,  it  really  signifies  a  much  deeper  sentiment 
in  the  breasts  of  the  people  of  the  North,  which,  in  process  of 
time,  must  ripen  into  more  decisive  action."22  That  action, 
whatever  it  might  be,  awaited  the  outcome  of  the  election. 

He  had  fully  expected  that  Seward  would  be  nominated 
and  was  prepared  to  oppose  him  because  of  his  seemingly 
rapid  retreat  from  the  irrepressible  conflict.  He  despised 
Seward  as  the  incarnation  of  political  trickery.  What  the 
Republicans  needed  was  a  man  with  heart  as  well  as  intel- 
ligence. Abolishing  slavery  would  prove  no  mere  holiday 
recreation,  "something  that  will  lead  on  to  fame  and  popu- 
larity, to  office  and  power."  It  meant  a  willingness  to  sacrifice 
all  these  things  for  the  sake  of  the  slave.  There  appeared  to  be 
very  few  leaders  of  the  right  caliber  in  the  Republican  Party, 
and  he  was  sure  that  Lincoln  was  not  one  of  them. 

Garrison's  initial  reaction  to  the  nomination  of  Lincoln, 
though  unfavorable,  hardly  matched  the  outraged  cries  of 
Wendell  Phillips.  In  an  editorial  unusually  vituperative  even 
for  him,  Phillips  labeled  Lincoln  the  "Slave  Hound  of  Il- 
linois" and  singled  out  his  1848  proposal  for  the  return  of 
fugitive  slaves  from  the  District  of  Columbia  as  positive 
proof  of  his  pro-slavery  intentions.  Garrison  at  first  refused 
to  print  the  libel  and  accepted  it  only  when  Phillips  agreed 
to  sign  his  initials  to  it.  Soon,  however,  he  joined  his  friend 


4°°  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

in  berating  Lincoln  as  a  slavocrat  in  disguise.  Was  a  man  who 
in  one  breath  demanded  the  rendition  of  fugitive  slaves  and 
in  the  next  professed  to  hate  slavery  —  was  such  a  man  worthy 
of  confidence  and  support?  "Such  a  man  shall  never  have 
my  vote,  either  to  occupy  the  Presidential  chair,  or  any 
other  station."23  Lincoln  might  be  six  feet  four  inches  tall, 
but  he  was  a  mental  dwarf. 

Their  denunciation  of  Lincoln  did  not  prevent  Phillips  and 
Garrison  from  hailing  his  election  as  a  triumph  of  justice. 
"Babylon  is  fallen,  is  fallen!"  cried  Garrison,  and  Phillips 
announced  cryptically  that  though  Lincoln  was  in  place,  Gar- 
rison was  in  power.  Nothing  could  have  been  further  from 
the  truth.  In  the  great  battle  against  institutions  Garrison  had 
lost  nearly  all  the  ground  he  formerly  held.  His  advocacy 
of  Northern  secession  had  burgeoned  into  an  act  of  defiance, 
a  challenge  to  the  South  to  answer  "our  great,  magnificent, 
invincible  North."  From  the  arid  heights  of  perfectionist 
anarchy  he  was  descending  to  the  plain  of  power  politics. 
"Give  me  the  omnipotent  North,"  he  told  his  society,  "give 
me  the  resources  of  the  eighteen  free  States  of  our  country, 
on  the  side  of  freedom  as  a  great  independent  empire,  and  I 
will  ask  nothing  more  for  the  abolition  of  slavery."24 

He  flatly  refused  to  take  Southern  threats  of  secession 
seriously,  since  he  was  convinced  that  the  South's  fear  of 
Lincoln  only  showed  how  desperate  she  had  become.  Whom 
the  gods  would  destroy  they  first  make  mad.  How  far  would 
Southern  rabble-rousers  go?  Would  they  secede?  "Will  they 
jump  into  the  Atlantic?  Will  they  conflagrate  their  own 
dwellings,  cut  their  own  throats,  and  enable  their  slaves  to 
rise  in  successful  insurrection?  Perhaps  they  will  —  probably 
they  will  not!  By  their  bullying  and  raving,  they  have  many 
times  frightened  the  North  into  a  base  submission  to  their  de- 
mands —  and  they  expect  to  do  it  again!  Shall  they  succeed?' 


''25 


SECESSION  401 

These  assurances  of  Southern  pusillanimity  failed  to  tally 
with  his  frequent  references  to  the  "brutal,  demented,  God- 
defying  oppressors"  or  with  his  conviction  that  the  South  was 
one  vast  Bedlam  full  of  lunatics.  Eagerly  he  awaited  the 
results  of  Lincoln's  election.  It  had  been  a  long,  desperate 
struggle  with  the  most  satanic  despotism  on  earth,  but  though 
the  end  was  not  yet,  it  could  not  be  far  distant  —  "all  signs 
of  the  times  are  indicating  that  a  great  revolution  is  at  hand." 
Of  course,  Southerners  talked  treason,  but  they  were  careful 
not  to  commit  any  acts  which  might  endanger  their  necks. 
"Hence,  all  their  blustering  and  vaporing  amounts  to  treason, 
in  spirit,  language,  and  possible  design,  but  not  to  anything 
tangible."26 

When  South  Carolina  provided  the  tangible  evidence  in 
December,  he  was  willing  to  let  the  "errant  sister"  withdraw 
peacefully.  "In  vain  have  been,  and  will  be,  all  compromises 
between  North  and  South,"  he  told  his  readers.  "All  Union- 
saving  efforts  are  simply  idiotic."27  As  one  by  one  the  South- 
ern states  left  the  Union,  however,  what  had  once  been 
sheer  rodomontade  suddenly  loomed  ominously  as  acts  "purely 
factious  and  flagrantly  treasonable."  The  rebellion  of  the 
South  was  not  revolution  in  the  spirit  of  '76,  but  treachery 
of  the  deepest  dye.  The  North,  he  insisted,  should  accept 
the  inevitable,  form  a  convention  of  free  states  and  band  to- 
gether. The  Union  had  been  an  insane  attempt  to  unite  hostile 
interests,  hostile  ideas  and  principles  —  two  Gods,  one  for 
liberty,  the  other  for  slavery,  two  Christs,  one  for  white  men 
and  the  other  for  black.  Let  the  new  North  organize  an 
independent  government  and  say  to  the  slave  states,  "Though 
you  are  without  excuse  for  your  treasonable  conduct,  depart 
in  peace!"28  Strained  to  the  breaking  point  by  the  secession 
of  the  South,  Garrison's  patience  did  not  snap  until  Southern 


4°2  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

guns  at  Fort  Sumter  taught  him  the  folly  of  peaceful  seces- 
sion. 

In  January,  1861,  the  Massachusetts  Society  met  without  its 
leader  for  the  first  time  in  its  history.  Confined  to  his  bed  by 
one  of  his  intermittent  fevers,  Garrison  heard  how  Phillips 
and  Emerson  had  been  shouted  down  by  rowdies  who 
whistled,  stamped,  hurled  cushions  and  bottles,  and  finally 
paraded  onto  the  stage,  where  they  were  beaten  back  by 
Phillips's  armed  bodyguard.  Phillips  obviously  enjoyed  his 
notoriety  and  had  taken  to  carrying  a  pistol.  Asked  by  one 
of  his  many  feminine  admirers  whether  he  would  use  it,  he 
replied  with  a  flourish,  "Yes,  just  as  I  would  shoot  a  mad 
dog  or  a  wild  bull."  His  casual  remark  was  an  index  of 
abolitionist  militance  in  the  new  year. 

As  April  grew  near  Garrison  suddenly  became  convinced 
of  Lincoln's  soundness.  He  now  saw  in  the  President  a 
"rare  self-possession  and  equanimity"  which  he  never  knew 
he  possessed.  If  war  came  — and  it  seemed  likely  that  it 
would  —  he  decided  to  give  all  his  support  to  the  administra- 
tion. He  still  hoped  it  possible  for  Lincoln  to  accept  separa- 
tion in  the  spirit  of  Abraham  and  Lot,  to  leave  the  South  to 
her  own  dreadful  devices.  Slavery  would  soon  collapse  and 
a  new  Union  of  North  and  South  would  emerge  stretching 
from  the  Atlantic  to  the  Pacific,  "one  in  spirit,  in  purpose, 
in  glorious  freedom,  the  bitter  past  forgotten,  and  the  future 
full  of  richest  promise."29  He  was  still  savoring  this  dream  of 
the  birth  of  a  true  national  vocation  when  the  firing  on  Fort 
Sumter  supplanted  it  with  the  nightmare  of  civil  war. 

Lincoln's  call  for  volunteers  thrust  upon  Garrison  the 
choice  he  had  avoided  for  thirty  years.  His  losing  struggle 
with  the  problem  of  reconciling  pacificism  and  abolition  is 
documented  in  four  long  editorials  written  after  the  fall  of 
Sumter.  In  the  first  of  them  he  reversed  his  position  on  seces- 


SECESSION 403 

sion  and  flatly  denied  that  he  had  ever  granted  the  right  of 
the  South  to  secede.  "Certainly  it  is  not  a  doctrine  that  has 
ever  been  advocated  or  countenanced  by  us;  and  we  believe 
it  wholly  indefensible.  ...  we  deny  that,  between  what 
the  perfidious  secessionists  have  done,  and  what  we  have  urged 
upon  the  North  to  do  in  general,  there  is  any  point  of  com- 
parison." In  a  passage  which  must  have  given  sour  satisfaction 
to  the  political  abolitionists  he  admitted  that  the  right  of 
secession  made  a  mockery  of  the  Union.  How  could  there 
be  a  right  to  perpetuate  slavery?  "Whence  does  such  a  'right' 
originate?  What  'sovereignty'  is  competent  to  exercise  it? 
And  if  the  abolitionists  use  their  right  'for  the  destruction 
of  slavery/  does  it  follow  that  the  slaveholders  have  an  equal 
right  to  seek  the  perpetuity  of  'the  sum  of  all  villainies'?  Is 
there  no  confusion  of  ideas  here?"30 

Indeed  there  was.  The  confusion  lay  in  his  attempt  to  make 
the  right  of  revolution  contingent  upon  civil  liberties.  He 
was  saying,  in  effect,  that  there  were  "good"  and  "bad" 
revolutions,  that  good  revolutions  freed  slaves  and  hence  were 
justifiable  but  bad  revolutions  were  wicked  and  unjustifiable. 

He  devoted  a  second  editorial  to  clarifying  the  problem, 
and  the  result  was  confusion  worse  confounded.  First  of  all, 
he  declared,  he  had  never  granted  any  state  the  right  to  secede 
"ad  libitum"  The  Declaration  of  Independence  provided  no 
carte  blanche  for  would-be  revolutionists.  The  slaveholding 
South  long  ago  had  lost  its  claim  to  the  Jeffersonian  heritage 
and  the  Declaration  of  Independence.  Where  was  the  long 
train  of  abuses,  the  denial  of  life,  liberty,  or  the  pursuit  of 
happiness?  Northern  disunionists,  that  intrepid  band  of  true 
anti-slavery  heroes,  presented  a  different  case  altogether. 
The  difference  lay  in  their  principles,  in  their  reverence  for 
higher  law  and  their  ideals  of  "eternal  justice"  and  "unswerv- 
ing rectitude."  Northern  secession  was  based  on  "the  eternal 


404  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

fitness  of  things,  and  animated  by  a  noble,  disinterested,  and 
philanthropic  spirit,"  whereas  Southern  secession  was  "the 
concentration  of  all  diabolism."31  As  his  self-assurance 
dimmed,  his  prose  acquired  an  incantatory  quality,  as  though 
he  thought  that  by  repeating  the  formula  he  might  come 
to  believe  it. 

Civil  war  might  have  been  avoided,  he  wrote  in  a  third 
editorial,  by  the  simple  expedient  of  proclaiming  liberty  to 
the  captives.  We  have  healed  Babylon,  but  Babylon  is  not 
healed.  "No  other  alternative  is  left  the  Government,  there- 
fore, than  either  to  be  driven  from  the  Capital,  or  to  main- 
tain unflinchingly  its  constitutional  sovereignty."  He  wel- 
comed the  change  in  Northern  opinion  which  he  called  "total, 
wonderful,  indescribable."  Under  these  circumstances  who 
could  doubt  the  outcome?  The  South  lacked  numbers,  re- 
sources, energy,  courage,  and  valor.  Let  there  be  no  more 
treasonable  talk  of  compromise  or  concession,  but  in  hum- 
bling the  Southern  conspirators  let  the  government  immedi- 
ately use  the  war  power  to  proclaim  universal  and  immediate 
emancipation! 32 

It  remained  only  to  bury  the  peace  cause  as  decently  and 
quickly  as  possible,  and  this  disagreeable  chore  he  performed 
in  the  final  editorial  of  the  series,  "The  Relation  of  the 
Anti-Slavery  Cause  to  the  War."  First  he  corrected  the 
"widely  prevalent  but  mistaken  opinion"  as  to  the  pacific 
principles  of  the  abolitionists.  "They  are  generally  sup- 
posed or  represented  to  be  a  body  of  non-resistants,  who 
cannot  consistently,  therefore,  do  otherwise  than  condemn 
or  deplore  the  present  clashing  of  arms  in  deadly  strife." 
It  was  true  that  abolitionists  had  promised  not  to  stir  up  slave 
rebellions  and  that  as  Christians  they  opposed  the  use  of 
force  generally.  "But,  as  individuals,  acting  on  their  own 
responsibility,  while  largely  imbued  with  the  spirit  of  peace, 


SECESSION 405 

they  have  never  adopted  the  doctrine  of  non-resistance,  with 
a  few  exceptional  cases."  About  his  own  case  he  said  nothing 
but  passed  quickly  on  to  the  question  of  the  causes  of  the 
war.  "The  one  great  cause  of  all  our  national  troubles  and 
divisions  is  SLAVERY:  the  removal  of  it,  therefore,  is  essential 
to  our  national  existence."  From  the  beginning  abolitionists 
had  predicted  the  consequences  of  slaveholding  in  the  South. 
"Now  that  their  predictions  have  come  to  pass,  are  they  to 
indulge  in  morbid  exclamations  against  the  natural  law  of 
immutable  justice,  and  to  see  in  it  no  evidence  of  the  growth 
of  conscience,  the  power  of  truth,  or  the  approach  of  the 
long-wished  for  jubilee?"33  To  his  friends  he  added,  "Let  us 
all  stand  aside,  when  the  North  is  rushing  like  a  tornado  in 
the  right  direction."34 

Garrison's  final  estimate  of  the  cause  of  the  Civil  War 
was  essentially  correct —  it  was  slavery  which  disrupted  the 
business  of  government,  broke  down  the  two-party  system, 
made  every  foreign  and  domestic  problem  an  insoluble  one, 
and  finally  forced  the  South  to  secede.  Even  if  the  question 
of  slavery  in  the  territories  was  abstract  and  hypothetical 
(a  debatable  assumption  at  best),  it  was  nonetheless  real.  It 
was  precisely  the  abstract  quality  of  the  slavery  problem 
that  made  it  so  real.  The  war  did  not  come  through  any 
expressed  desire  of  the  American  people  in  either  section 
of  the  country  or  because  their  leaders  blundered.  Had  a 
plebiscite  been  held  in  April,  1861,  an  overwhelming  majority 
of  Americans  would  have  voted  against  war.  But  what  does 
this  prove?  That  history  does  not  always  follow  the  dic- 
tates of  majority  will.  The  story  of  the  decade  that  ended 
with  the  firing  on  Fort  Sumter  reveals  the  power  of  abstrac- 
tions to  disrupt  the  normal  course  of  events  and  distort  normal 
political  vision.  Americans  first  tried  to  avoid  the  moral 


406  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

dilemma  of  slavery  and  then  to  deal  with  it  at  a  distance  as  a 
territorial  problem.  They  ended  by  going  to  war. 

The  rapidity  with  which  the  political  crisis  enveloped  the 
country  ought  to  have  warned  the  anti-slavery  men  of  the 
explosive  power  of  their  ideas.  Abolitionists  in  general  and 
Garrison  in  particular  should  have  known  where  their  kind 
of  moral  agitation  would  lead  —  had  to  lead.  Since  1829  he  had 
preached  the  incompatibility  of  slavery  and  democracy.  He 
had  used  every  weapon,  framed  every  indictment,  coined 
every  phrase  he  could  find  to  prove  that  the  two  ways  of 
life  were  irreconcilable.  Now  he  had  to  face  the  charges  of 
contemporary  "revisionists"  who  accused  him  of  recklessly 
fostering  a  spirit  of  violence. 

The  question  naturally  arises  [he  wrote  in  185 8], —  How  is  this 
astonishing  change  in  Southern  feeling  and  opinion  to  be  ac- 
counted for?  It  is  owing  to  the  fanatical  course  pursued  by  the 
Abolitionists,'  will  be  the  reply  of  their  traducers  universally.  'If 
they  had  not  created  such  an  agitation  and  thereby  alarmed 
and  excited  the  South,  slavery  would  ere  this  have  been  abolished 
in  Maryland,  Virginia,  Kentucky,  and  other  States.  By  their 
fierce  anathemas  and  their  outrageous  measures,  they  have  re- 
tarded the  emancipation  of  the  slaves  at  least  half  a  century,'  In 
some  cases,  such  talk  as  this  is  the  product  of  honest  misconcep- 
tion and  utter  ignorance;  in  others,  of  short-sightedness  and  in- 
attention; but  generally  of  pro-slavery  malignity  and  desperation. 
What  an  idiotic  absurdity  it  is  to  say  that  earnest,  persistent,  un- 
compromising moral  opposition  to  a  system  of  boundless  im- 
morality is  the  way  to  strengthen  it,  and  that  the  way  to  abolish 
a  system  is  to  say  nothing  about  it!85 

The  abolitionists  did  not  cause  the  Civil  War,  but  they 
played  an  indispensable  part  in  precipitating  the  crisis  that 
led  to  war.  By  identifying  abolition  with  the  cause  of  free 
society  and  dramatizing  their  fight  as  a  struggle  between  an 


SECESSION  407 

open  community  with  a  free  intellectual  market  and  a  closed 
society  afraid  of  ideas,  they  showed  their  generation  the  ter- 
rible discordance  between  their  ideals  and  their  behavior. 
They  raised  the  Jeffersonian  model  for  re-examination  and 
with  it  the  whole  revolutionary  tradition.  They  manufactured 
the  myth  of  the  Slave  Power  Conspiracy  and  capitalized  on 
the  Southern  disposition  to  act  as  though  it  were  fact.  They 
protested  the  closing  of  the  mails,  the  denial  of  free  speech 
and  the  right  of  assembly  in  both  sections  of  the  country. 
They  turned  the  United  States  out  of  its  course  and  forced  it 
to  confront  a  moral  question. 

Garrison  sensed,  however  dimly,  that  a  healthy  society 
must  tolerate  the  agitation  of  unpopular  opinion.  He  believed 
that  there  are  certain  situations  in  which  compromise  is  un- 
desirable if  not  impossible.  The  Civil  War  was  such  an  in- 
stance. The  obvious  fact  that  no  one  wanted  a  war  hardly 
alters  the  equally  compelling  fact  that  the  abolition  of  slavery 
required  an  appeal  to  force.  If  such  situations  do  occur  —  and 
in  his  soul  Garrison  was  convinced  that  they  did  —  then  it  is 
a  moral  failure  and  unpardonable  folly  to  deny  that  the  or- 
ganized use  of  force  may  become  necessary.36  Garrison  denied 
it  as  long  as  he  could.  He  knew  that  the  South  had  been  given 
its  chance  to  abolish  slavery  and  that  most  Southerners  never- 
had  any  intention  of  abolishing  it.  He  also  knew  that  to  de- 
fend the  institution  the  South  had  rejected  democracy.  Had 
he  faced  the  issues  squarely,  he  should  have  known,  probably 
by  1854,  certainly  by  1857,  that  slavery  would  have  to  be 
abolished  by  force.  Finally,  he  should  also  have  known  that 
the  freedom  of  the  Negro  was  worth  the  risk  of  war  because 
without  it  American  democracy  was  a  sham.  In  some  such 
recognition  lay  the  ability  to  meet  the  crisis  when  it  came 
with  rationality  and  courage.  Garrison  not  only  lacked  a 
tragic  sense  of  history,  he  failed  in  honesty  to  himself. 


408         THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

The  tragedy  of  the  Civil  War  was  not  that  it  was  "repress- 
ible"  and  "needless/7  but  that  it  was  fought  without  any 
clear  sense  of  purpose.  For  this  tragic  lack  of  direction  the 
abolitionists,  and  chief  among  them  Garrison,  must  bear  a 
large  share  of  the  blame.  Garrison's  great  failing  was  not  the 
inciting  of  an  unnecessary  war  but  the  lack  of  intelligence  to 
direct  it  for  moral  ends. 


Armageddon  at  Last 


IN  1863,  the  midstream  of  the  Civil  War,  Garrison  wrote  a 
patriotic  poem  for  his  readers  depicting  the  savagery  of 
their  enemies. 

Satan  seceded,  and  he  fell, 

In  chains  and  darkness  doom'd  to  dwell 

With  other  traitors  who  rebel, 

In  act,  and  word, 
Because  he'd  rather  reign  in  hell 

Than  serve  the  Lord 
Who  guards  us  with  his  flaming  sword.1 

The  demonic  figure  of  the  Southern  rebel  and  his  Northern 
accomplice,  the  Copperhead,  governed  Garrison's  imagination 
through  four  years  of  civil  war.  Sometimes  it  brooded  )ust 
over  the  horizon,  a  nameless  threatening  shape.  More  often 
it  assumed  the  form  of  Jefferson  Davis  or  Clement  Vallandig- 
ham,  Fernando  Wood  or  Horatio  Seymour.  Whether  treason 
stalked  the  West  with  the  Knights  of  the  Golden  Circle  or 
wandered  through  Washington  corridors  or  drifted  over  the 
battlefields  of  Fredericksburg  or  rode  with  Grant  through 
the  Wilderness,  it  was  an  ever-present  specter  in  Garrison's 
mind,  portentous  and  fiendish.  The  Christian  anarchist  in 
him  yielded  to  the  super-patriot  who  discovered  traitors  and 
treason  everywhere.  His  philosophy  of  minority  rights 


410  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

crumbled  before  reason  of  state,  liberty  capitulated  to  au- 
thority, and  Garrison  joined  the  ranks  of  the  demagogues. 

He  welcomed  the  war  as  the  only  means  of  freeing  the 
slave.  At  times  during  the  four  years  of  fighting  he  seemed  to 
understand  what  the  war  meant  and  what  kind  of  America 
peace  would  bring.  In  the  summer  of  1862  he  was  invited  to 
speak  at  Williams  College  and  explain  the  abolitionists'  rela- 
tion to  the  war.  He  began  by  pointing  out  that  true  democracy 
had  never  been  practiced  in  America,  that  the  first  American 
Revolution  had  not  been  the  glorious  struggle  for  human 
rights  annually  invoked  by  Fourth  of  July  orators  but  only 
a  colonial  rebellion  against  the  mother  country.  Americans, 
however,  had  justified  their  rebellion  with  a  document  that 
far  transcended  their  immediate  aims.  "The  Declaration  of 
Independence  still  remains  true,  in  spite  of  our  recreancy  to 
it."  Against  it  the  Confederacy  opposed  a  medieval  absurdity. 
Jefferson  Davis  told  his  soldiers  that  they  were  fighting  the 
tyranny  of  numbers.  What  was  this  but  "toryism  run  to 
seed,"  a  return  not  simply  to  the  rule  of  kings  but  to  the 
feudalism  of  the  dark  ages?  There  were  no  "people"  in  the 
South,  he  told  the  students,  nor  any  democracy  in  the  true 
sense  of  the  word.  There  was  only  a  slave  oligarchy,  a  class 
of  depressed  poor  whites,  and  the  slaves.  The  first  were  des- 
perate men,  Miltonic  fallen  angels  who  would  rather  rule 
in  hell  than  serve  in  heaven.  The  poor  whites  were  mere  tools 
of  the  masters,  "demoralized,  benighted  and  barbarous."  The 
Negroes  offered  the  only  hope  for  the  South,  for  they  were 
"the  only  class  at  the  South  to  constitute  a  basis  for  civiliza- 
tion, by  their  deep  religious  nature,  by  the  aptitude  to  learn, 
by  their  aspiration  for  a  higher  destiny,  and  thus,  'with  a  large 
infusion  of  Northern  brains  and  muscles,  to  make  the  unity 
of  the  republic  a  possible  and  permanent  event"® 

It  was  a  picture  of  social  revolution  engineered  by  the 


ARMAGEDDON  AT  LAST  4!  I 

North  and  the  Negroes  which  he  painted  for  his  audience, 
a  class  upheaval  bringing  the  end  of  feudalism  and  the  begin- 
nings of  industrial  democracy,  a  second  American  Revolu- 
tion. Unfortunately  this  vision  quickly  faded  and  in  its  place 
there  emerged  the  simpler  and  sterner  motif  of  Republican 
rule.  If  the  Civil  War  failed  to  achieve  the  kind  of  egalitarian 
justice  of  which  he  dreamed,  it  nonetheless  changed  his  whole 
world.  It  disrupted  the  religious  movement  he  had  created 
and  destroyed  his  philosophy  of  moral  reform.  It  released 
a  chauvinistic  urge  formerly  confined  by  pacifist  scruples.  It 
shattered  his  friendship  with  Wendell  Phillips,  the  one  man 
who  might  have  clarified  his  idea  of  racial  equality.  It  altered 
his  view  of  England  and  English  reformers.  Finally,  the  war 
replaced  his  stable  New  England  civilization  with  the  raw 
society  and  irresponsible  power  of  the  Gilded  Age. 

The  war  brought  out  his  latent  loyalty  to  the  Union,  which 
he  explained  as  "the  paramount  duty  of  the  citizen  ...  to 
the  government."  "Theoretically  and  practically,  its  preserva- 
tion is  of  paramount  importance  to  that  of  any  local  institution 
under  it,"  he  announced,  "hence,  its  right  to  destroy  such 
institutions,  root  and  branch,  is  unquestionable,  when  bloody 
rebellion  is  seen  to  be  its  all-controlling  spirit."3  Then  the 
war  power  became  competent  for  all  activities  of  government, 
but  this  power  was  not  despotic,  he  told  his  readers,  because 
it  rested  on  popular  will  and  functioned  as  the  organ  of  "THE 
PEOPLE."  To  leave  the  South  free  to  settle  the  slavery  ques- 
tion meant  casting  off  the  duties  and  responsibilities  assigned 
by  Providence  in  delivering  the  slave  out  of  bondage.  As  a 
corrective  measure  for  those  of  his  old  disunionists  who  per- 
sisted in  citing  the  Declaration  of  Independence  to  justify 
Southern  secession  he  recommended  a  thorough  reading  of 
the  fifty-eighth  chapter  of  Isaiah. 

For  the  converted  patriot  the  first  two  years  of  the  war 


412  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

were  trying  indeed.  With  increasing  disgust  he  found  the 
government  "blind"  and  its  leaders  "stumbling,  halting,  pre- 
varicating, irresolute,  weak,  besotted."4  Nor  did  the  rest  of 
the  world,  British  abolitionists  included,  seem  to  understand 
the  dangers  of  Southern  nationalism.  "How  can  we  let  them 
go  in  peace,"  he  demanded  of  George  Thompson,  "they  want 
to  spread  slavery  over  the  whole  country."5  Political  aboli- 
tionists had  been  asking  the  same  question  of  him  for  twenty- 
five  years. 

Bowing  to  the  demands  of  war,  he  subjected  anti-slavery 
to  a  searching  reappraisal  which  resulted  in  a  "Restatement 
of  the  Principles,  Measures,  and  Object  of  the  American 
Anti-Slavery  Society,"  a  three-column  editorial  in  the  Liber- 
ator for  October  4,  1861.  The  abolitionists,  his  editorial 
pointed  out,  had  worked  under  the  original  Declaration  of 
Sentiments  for  nearly  ten  years  before  adopting  the  motto 
NO  UNION  WITH  SLAVEHOLDERS.  They  had  turned  to  the  dis- 
unionist  slogan  only  to  secure  a  hearing  from  the  American 
people;  they  never  had  been  and  were  not  now  disloyal  to 
the  Union.  The  federal  Constitution  protected  the  rights  of 
free  speech  and  a  free  press,  and  these  rights  were  all  that 
the  Garrisonians  had  ever  claimed.  "Distinguished  for  their 
pacific  sentiments,  they  have  discountenanced  all  violence  and 
disorder,  and  sought  their  ends  only  through  a  rectified  pub- 
lic sentiment,  by  the  power  of  truth."  From  Christian  anarchy 
Garrisonism  had  been  miraculously  converted  into  a  respect- 
able theory  of  constitutional  reform! 

As  soon  as  the  Union  Army  entered  its  first  summer  cam- 
paign, he  hailed  it  as  God's  machine  for  dispensing  retribu- 
tion. The  whole  land  would  be  scourged  and  there  would  be 
desolation  and  death,  weeping  and  mourning,  but  then  with 
the  slave  freed  the  land  would  have  rest  and  the  waste  places 
be  restored.  Confederate  shells  at  Bull  Run  exploded  this 


ARMAGEDDON  AT  LAST  413 

prediction  along  with  the  confidence  of  the  North  and  left 
frightened  politicians  and  bewildered  generals  gasping  for  an 
explanation.  Garrison  quickly  exonerated  the  Northern  troops. 
As  soon  as  war  was  declared  he  had  predicted  that  "demonia- 
cal acts"  would  be  perpetrated  by  the  "Southern  Sepoys/* 
and  now  in  the  aftermath  of  battle  he  told  of  wounded  Union 
soldiers  "thrust  through  and  through  with  bowie-knives  and 
bayonets  and  otherwise  mangled —  in  some  instances  their 
bodies  quartered,  and  in  others  their  heads  cut  off,  and  made 
footballs  of  by  their  fiendish  enemies."6  He  began  to  hope 
for  a  huge  slave  rebellion  and  promised  that  when  it  came  "as 
non-resistants,  we  shall  give  the  slaves  our  warmest  sympa- 
thies." At  the  same  time  he  stepped  up  his  attack  on  the 
"treasonable"  Democratic  Party,  accusing  it  of  giving  aid 
and  comfort  to  the  rebels. 

He  boasted  that  his  peace  principles  were  as  beneficent 
and  glorious  as  ever,  "neither  disproved  nor  modified  by 
anything  now  transpiring  in  the  country."  If  the  American 
people  had  accepted  them  long  ago,  there  would  have  been 
no  slavery  and  no  war.  Since  war  had  come,  however,  he 
supported  it  because  there  was  no  wrong  or  injustice  on  the 
side  of  the  Union  while  there  was  nothing  but  lynch  law 
and  diabolism  on  the  side  of  the  secessionists.  In  upholding 
the  Union  he  did  not  compromise  his  pacifist  beliefs  in  the 
least.  "On  the  contrary,  we  wish  all  the  North  were  able  to 
adopt  those  principles,  understandingly,  heartily,  and  without 
delay;  but,  according  to  the  structure  of  the  human  mind,  in 
the  whirlwkd  of  the  present  deadly  conflict,  this  is  impracti- 
cable."7 

Lincoln's  policies  during  the  first  two  years  of  the  war  gave 
the  abolitionists  scant  encouragement.  His  annual  message 
in  December,  1861,  contained  no  suggestion  that  he  was 
seriously  considering  a  general  emancipation.  "What  a  wishy- 


414         THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

washy  message  from  the  President!"  Garrison  complained. 
"It  is  more  and  more  evident  that  he  is  a  man  of  a  very  small 
calibre,  and  had  better  not  be  at  the  head  of  a  government 
like  ours,  especially  in  such  a  crisis."8  Perhaps  Phillips  was 
right  after  all  in  denouncing  Lincoln  as  a  man  without  a 
single  generous  sentiment.  The  President  was  obviously 
paralyzed  by  his  fear  of  losing  the  loyalty  of  the  border 
states.  He  was  fully  equipped  by  the  war  power  to  proclaim 
an  emancipation  —  what  was  he  waiting  for?  If  the  provi- 
dential opportunity  were  allowed  to  pass,  there  could  only 
come  heavier  judgments  and  bloodier  results.  The  time  for 
an  emancipation  proclamation  was  right  now! 

Garrison  did  not  misrepresent  the  President's  attitude  to- 
ward the  Negro:  Lincoln  hated  slavery,  but  he  was  not  an 
abolitionist.  He  declared  himself  naturally  opposed  to  slavery 
and  believed  that  if  it  was  not  wrong  nothing  was  wrong.  At 
the  same  time  he  held  that  a  statesman  could  not  allow  his 
private  judgments  to  determine  his  policy  and  that  it  was 
particularly  inexpedient,  as  he  put  it,  "to  practically  indulge 
.  .  .  abstract  judgment  on  the  moral  question  of  slavery."0 
The  result  was  a  policy  shaped  largely  by  force  of  circum- 
stances. Though  he  hated  slavery,  he  did  not  believe  in  racial 
equality.  In  the  summer  of  1862  he  held  a  conference  at  the 
White  House  with  a  group  of  prominent  Negroes  hoping  to 
get  their  approval  for  his  plan  of  gradual  emancipation.  In 
terms  reminiscent  of  Jefferson's  Notes  on  Virginia  he  ex- 
plained to  them  how  both  the  black  and  the  white  race 
suffered  from  close  contact  and  how  the  Negroes  could 
never  hope  to  attain  equality.  In  the  whole  country,  he  said, 
not  a  single  Negro  was  considered  the  equal  of  the  white. 
No  one  could  change  a  condition  that  lay  in  the  nature  of 
things.  His  solution,  to  which  he  clung  until  his  death,  con- 
sisted of  a  scheme  of  gradual  manumission  coupled  with 


ARMAGEDDON   AT  LAST  415 

colonization  or,  his  own  ugly  word  for  it,  "deportation." 
Already  he  was  considering  the  project  of  a  group  of  land 
speculators  for  developing  the  Chiriqui  plantation  near 
Panama  with  a  consignment  of  free  Negroes;  and  later  in  the 
war  he  actually  contracted  with  the  promoters  of  a  Haitian 
plan  to  relocate  freed  slaves  on  the  lie  a  Vache.  After  a  year 
on  the  island,  during  which  a  third  of  their  number  died,  the 
deportees  were  returned  to  the  United  States. 

Neither  Lincoln  nor  Congress  satisfied  Garrison's  demands 
for  a  general  emancipation  policy.  A  confiscation  act  of 
August  6,  1 86 1,  made  slaves  captured  while  working  for  the 
enemy  forfeit  but  not  free,  and  a  later  act  made  the  escaped 
slaves  of  traitors  "forever  free  of  their  servitude."  Congress 
also  abolished  slavery  in  the  District  of  Columbia,  but  a 
general  emancipation  proclamation  awaited  the  President's 
initiative.  The  first  move  came  instead  from  the  anti-slavery 
generals -— Benjamin  Butler  and  David  Hunter  — who  issued 
emancipation  proclamations  of  their  own.  These  Lincoln 
quickly  revoked,  and  there  matters  stood  until  September, 
1862. 

Garrison  naturally  applauded  Fremont's  "wise,  beneficent 
and  masterly  procedure"  in  Missouri  and  accused  Lincoln  of 
a  serious  dereliction  of  duty  in  failing  to  extend  emancipation 
under  martial  law.  He  hastened  to  counter  Lincoln's  plan 
for  gradual  manumission  with  the  demand  for  "immediate 
and  unconditional  emancipation."  By  immediate  emancipa- 
tion he  meant,  now  as  he  always  had,  "the  recognition  and 
protection  of  his  [the  Negro's]  manhood  by  law  —  the  power 
to  make  contracts,  to  receive  wages,  to  accumulate  property, 
to  acquire  knowledge,  to  dwell  where  he  chooses,  to  defend 
his  wife,  children  and  fireside."10  Significantly,  he  ignored  the 
question  of  the  franchise:  in  his  mind  emancipation  did  not 
include  the  right  to  vote. 


41 6  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

Lincoln's  deportation  plan  revived  Northern  interest  in  the 
old  colonization  schemes  which  Garrison  had  assailed  three 
decades  before.  One  of  these  renewed  projects  involved  a 
group  of  Boston  philanthropists  and  industrialists  who  were 

interested  in  the  development  of  Haiti.  They  arranged  a 
meeting  and  timorously  asked  him  to  speak;  but  Garrison, 
though  he  admitted  that  the  colonizationists  were  acting  in 
good  faith,  attacked  their  scheme  as  an  escape  from  the  duty 
of  assimilating  the  Negro  into  American  life.  He  spoke,  in- 
stead, to  the  colored  people  of  Boston  urging  them  to  have 
nothing  to  do  with  the  plan.  It  might  be  that  they  would 
suffer  from  race  prejudice  for  some  time  to  come,  he  told 
them,  and  no  doubt  the  temptation  to  go  where  they  would 
not  be  proscribed  was  a  strong  one.  Yet  the  noblest  work  they 
could  do  was  stand  in  their  lot  and,  if  need  be,  suffer.  "Before 
God,  I  do  not  see  how  this  nation  can  be  really  civilized  and 
Christianized  if  you  go.  You  are  needed  to  make  us  Christians, 
to  make  us  understand  what  Christianity  means,5'11  If  they 
stayed  the  day  could  not  be  far  off  when  the  last  vestige  of 
caste  would  disappear  and  blacks  and  whites  would  live 
harmoniously  as  one  people. 

Garrison's  faith  in  Lincoln's  leadership  grew  stronger  as 
the  military  crisis  deepened.  He  instructed  abolitionists  to 
stand  aside  and  let  Northern  patriotism  do  its  work.  Skeptical 
as  he  was  of  the  President's  ideas  on  emancipation,  he  felt  a 
new  responsibility  toward  him  and  cautioned  his  followers  to 
avoid  any  harsh  criticism  of  his  administration.  Never  was  it 
so  important  as  now  for  abolitionists  to  weigh  their  words 
carefully  and  avoid  needless  persecution.  Instructions  went 
out  to  subordinates  to  quit  their  unpopular  agitation*  "I  have 
always  believed  that  the  Anti-Slavery  cause  has  aroused 
against  it  a  great  deal  of  uncalled  for  hostility/'  he  wrote  to 
Oliver  Johnson  in  complete  seriousness,  "in  consequence  of 


ARMAGEDDON  AT  LAST  417 

extravagance  of  speech  and  want  of  tact  and  good  judgment, 
on  the  part  of  some  most  desirous  to  promote  Its  advance- 
ment."12 He  had  conveniently  forgotten  his  old  role  of  agita- 
tor. 

He  undertook  to  defend  Lincoln  against  the  increasingly 
sharp  attacks  of  Phillips  and  the  Fosters,  who  withheld  their 
support  until  the  government  freed  the  slave.  Suppose,  Garri- 
son asked,  that  Lincoln  were  given  a  chance  to  answer  his 
critics,  would  he  not  say  something  like  this?  "  'Gentlemen, 
I  understand  this  matter  quite  as  well  as  you  do.  I  do  not 
know  that  I  differ  In  opinion  from  you;  but  will  you  Insure 
me  the  support  of  a  united  North  if  I  do  as  you  bid  me?  Are 
all  parties  and  all  sects  at  the  North  so  convinced  and  so 
united  on  this  point  that  they  will  stand  by  the  Government? 
If  so,  give  me  the  evidence  of  It,  and  I  will  strike  the  blow/  "w 
The  evidence,  Garrison  noted,  was  still  lacking. 

Such  doubts  did  not  deter  Wendell  Phillips  and  Stephen 
Foster  from  denouncing  Lincoln  unsparingly.  At  the  annual 
meeting  of  the  Massachusetts  Society  in  the  spring  of  1862 
Garrison  fended  them  off  with  a  resolution  declaring  the 
government  "wholly  in  the  right,"  but  the  question  of  emanci- 
pation remained*  When  Miller  McKim,  acting  for  Garrison, 
resigned  as  secretary  of  the  American  Anti-Slavery  Society 
later  that  spring,  stating  that  the  abolitionists'  work  was  done, 
Foster  and  Plilsbury  denied  that  the  work  of  the  society  was 
anywhere  near  finished  and  demanded  that  the  government 
take  immediate  action.  Although  Garrison  narrowly  defeated 
resolutions  holding  Lincoln  "culpable,"  he  knew  that  his 
control  over  his  societies  had  been  seriously  weakened.  Loss 
of  power  mattered  less  to  him  now  that  the  war  had  cur- 
tailed almost  all  anti-slavery  activity  and  Lincoln  seemed  the 
abolitionists1  only  hope, 

Yet  the  President's  delay  in  emancipating  the  slave  stretched 


4i 8  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

Garrison's  forbearance  to  the  limit.  In  March,  1862,  while  the 
Liberator  prepared  to  defend  Presidential  moderation,  Lin- 
coln outlined  his  plan  for  gradual,  compensated  emancipation 
in  an  overture  to  the  border  states.  Even  Garrison  admitted 
that  the  plan  in  effect  offered  a  bounty  to  states  in  rebellion 
and  that  there  was  no  emergency  warranting  such  an  extraor- 
dinary proposal.  In  view  of  the  resolutions  before  Congress 
calling  for  unconditional  emancipation  Lincoln's  plan  looked 
like  a  decoy.  Either  the  President  was  empowered  to  abolish 
slavery  everywhere,  he  insisted,  or  the  war  power  was  a 
fiction.  Then  Lincoln  vetoed  General  Hunter's  emancipation 
proclamation,  and  a  few  months  later  held  his  fateful  confer- 
ence with  the  Negro  delegation,  a  Spectacle,"  Garrison  cried, 
"as  humiliating  as  it  was  extraordinary."14  Could  anything  be 
more  absurd  and  untimely?  Negroes  might  be  banished  by 
Presidential  edict  but  they  could  never  be  coaxed  into  emi- 
grating. The  President,  Garrison  was  forced  to  conclude,  was 
"wholly  destitute"  of  sympathy  for  the  slave* 

Then  came  September  and  the  preliminary  Emancipation 
Proclamation.  The  pressure  generated  by  Hunter's  and  Fre- 
mont's edicts  had  gradually  increased  until  Lincoln  felt  the 
need  to  act.  Garrison  had  expected  a  dramatic  gesture,  an 
"Ithuriel  spear"  that  would  transform  every  "pseudo-loyal 
toad"  it  touched  into  a  "semi-rebellious  devil"16  Though  he 
admitted  that  the  proclamation  marked  Lincoln's  new  free- 
dom from  treasonable  advisers,  he  was?  disappointed  in  its 
narrow  compass  and  hesitant  language.  It  postponed  emanci- 
pation in  the  rebel  states  for  three  months,  and  though  it 
committed  the  government  to  emancipation,  it  failed  to  pro- 
vide a  practical  program.  The  document  only  proved  that 
Lincoln  would  do  nothing  directly  for  the  slave  but  worked 
"only  by  circumlocution  and  delay,"16 

In  December,  when  Lincoln  explained  his  emancipation 


ARMAGEDDON  AT  LAST  419 

program  in  his  annual  message,  Garrison  rejected  it  as  a  plan 
for  buying  Southern  treason  "in  lots  to  suit  the  purchasers." 
Instead  of  proclaiming  the  need  of  prosecuting  the  war  with 
renewed  vigor  and  suppressing  the  South,  the  President  went 
into  a  homily  about  the  evils  and  disadvantages  of  disunion, 
and  treated  the  war  as  a  matter  of  dollars  and  cents.  Like 
Rip  van  Winkle,  Lincoln  had  been  sleeping  for  the  last  thirty 
years  oblivious  to  everything  going  on  in  the  country.  His 
scheme  bordered  on  lunacy  —  "it  would  in  our  judgment, 
warrant  the  impeachment  of  the  President  by  Congress  as 
mentally  incapable  of  holding  the  sacred  trusts  committed  to 
his  hands."17  His  blistering  editorial,  which  foreshadowed 
his  support  of  the  Republican  radicals  in  the  days  of  Recon- 
struction, marked  the  point  of  greatest  alienation  from  the 
President,  Suddenly  Lincoln  looked  like  Phillips's  first-rate 
second-rate  man,  a  reluctant  leader  without  courage.  "A 
man  so  manifestly  without  moral  vision,  so  unsettled  in  his 
policy,  so  incompetent  to  lead,  so  destitute  of  hearty  abhor- 
rence of  slavery,  cannot  be  relied  on  in  an  emergency."18 
Then  came  January  i,  1863,  and  the  final  Emancipation 
Proclamation. 

Garrison  was  sitting  in  the  balcony  of  the  Music  Hall 
listening  to  Beethoven's  Fifth  Symphony  when  the  message 
arrived  that  Lincoln's  proclamation  had  just  come  over  the 
wire.  The  triumphal  music  was  interrupted  while  the  audi- 
ence gave  nine  ringing  cheers  for  Lincoln  and  three  for 
Garrison  and  the  abolitionists.  From  that  day  Garrison  be- 
came a  "tenacious  Unionist"  and  ardent  defender  of  the 
President.  The  proclamation  which  he  had  dismissed  as  in- 
effective he  welcomed  as  a  great  historic  event,  and  he  praised 
Lincoln  for  acting  in  a  "cautious"  and  "considerate"  manner 
with  due  respect  for  the  "obligations  and  prerogatives  of 
government"  Now  the  President  had  only  to  "finish  what 


42 O  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

he  has  so  largely  performed."  "Thirty  years  ago,"  he  told  his 
Massachusetts  Society  a  few  days  later,  "it  was  midnight  with 
the  anti-slavery  cause;  now  it  is  the  bright  noon  of  day  with 
the  sun  shining  in  his  meridian  splendor."19 

Thus  the  year  1863,  the  midpoint  of  the  war,  saw  Garrison 
give  Ms  full  support  to  Lincoln  and  his  administration  at  a 
time  when  the  President  needed  all  the  approval  he  could 
get.  The  Republicans  had  nearly  lost  control  of  Congress  in 
1862,  when  five  of  the  states  which  had  elected  Lincoln  fell 
to  the  Democrats.  The  Emancipation  Proclamation  and  the 
resurgence  of  the  Democratic  Party  furnished  two  good 
reasons  for  upholding  the  President,  but  even  more  important 
was  Garrison's  growing  awareness  of  the  dimensions  of  poli- 
tical leadership.  All  his  life  he  had  sought  the  components  of 
the  great  man  —  in  Timothy  Pickering,  Harrison  Gray  Otis, 
Lyman  Beecher,  Daniel  Webster  —  only  to  be  disillusioned 
by  his  hero's  flaws  or  baffled  by  his  own  fear  of  authority. 
Now  in  the  midst  of  civil  war  he  suddenly  realized  that  for 
all  his  failings  Lincoln  was  a  great  leader  and  a  great  man, 
A  year  that  witnessed  Burnside's  costly  blunder  at  Fredericks- 
burg  and  Hooker's  mistake  at  Chancellorsvillc,  draft  riots  in 
New  York,  and  the  rapid  growth  of  Congressional  opposition 
to  the  President  also  saw  the  education  of  Garrison  in  the 
ways  of  democratic  leadership.  In  view  of  the  continued 
obstructionist  tactics  of  his  followers  his  decision  to  stand 
by  Lincoln  required  intelligence  and  courage, 

The  alternative  to  Lincoln's  policy  of  moderation  was  the 
Carthaginian  peace  advocated  by  the  Radicals  in  Congress 
and  by  Wendell  Phillips.  The  Radicals  were  determined  to 
secure  freedom  for  the  Negro,  confiscate  the  estates  of  the 
rebels  and  distribute  them  among  their  former  slaves,  dis- 
franchise the  masters,  and  rule  in  the  name  of  Northern 
righteousness.  Phillips  took  the  lead  in  denouncing  Lincoln 


ARMAGEDDON  AT  EAST 421 

for  his  "heartlessness,  and  infamous  pandering  to  negro- 
phobia,"  his  "senile  lick-spittle  haste"  in  following  die  direc- 
tives of  disloyal  Northerners,  "The  President  and  the  Cabinet 
are  treasonable,"  he  told  a  Republican  audience  in  1862*  "The 

President  and  the  Secretary  of  War  should  be  impeached." 
To  a  Cooper  Union  crowd  he  said  that  the  President  never 
professed  to  be  a  leader.  "He  wants  to  know  what  yon  will 
allow  and  what  you  demand  that  he  shall  do."  Privately  he 
told  Sumner,  "Lincoln  is  doing  twice  as  much  today  to  break 
this  Union  as  Davis  is.  We  are  paying  thousands  of  lives  and 
millions  of  dollars  as  penalty  for  having  a  timid,  ignorant 
President  all  the  more  injurious  because  he  is  honest."20  On 
the  other  hand,  unlike  Garrison,  Phillips  knew  what  emanci- 
pation and  the  return  of  peace  must  bring  —  food  and  housing 
for  the  Negro,  access  to  the  land,  education  and  welfare  legis- 
lation, and  the  key  to  all  these,  the  right  to  vote.  Garrison 
was  hampered  by  his  refusal  to  consider  a  social  revolution* 
He  opposed  giving  the  Negro  the  franchise  and  remained 
wholly  ignorant  of  the  conditions  in  the  South  which  de- 
manded social  legislation.  The  differences  between  the  two 
men,  which  were  magnified  in  the  years  to  come,  originated 
in  the  clash  between  a  romanticized  evangelical  Christianity 
and  the  skeptical,  secular  outlook  of  a  professional  reformer. 
Despite  his  defense  of  Lincoln,  Garrison  did  not  intend  to 
relinquish  all  right  to  criticize  the  administration*  When 
Lincoln  issued  his  reconstruction  plan  in  December,  1863, 
he  joined  Phillips  in  condemning  it  Lincoln  hoped  to  re- 
establish the  state  governments  in  the  South  with  one-tenth  of 
the  voters  who  would  take  an  oath  of  allegiance  to  the  Union 
and  agree  to  make  temporary  arrangements  for  the  appren- 
ticeship of  former  slaves.  Garrison  complained  of  the  exces- 
sive lenience  of  the  President's  plan,  which  allowed  the  rebels 
to  vote  and  disfranchised  a  whole  body  of  loyal  firemen* 


422 


THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 


"It  opens  the  way  for  duplicity  and  perfidy  to  any  extent, 
and  virtually  nullifies  the  confiscation  act  of  Congress,  a 
measure  next  in  importance  to  the  abolition  of  slavery."21  As 
yet  he  was  not  prepared  to  face  the  possibility  of  a  head-on 
conflict  between  the  President  and  Congress  over  recon- 
struction; he  only  knew  that  Lincoln's  magnanimity  was  a 
weakness. 

At  the  same  time  he  closed  the  columns  of  the  Liberator  to 
his  old  pacifist  friends.  What  would  peace  gain  if  men  who 
fought  for  other  things  would  not  fight  for  liberty?  "The 
way  to  peace,  permanent  peace,  as  things  are  now  is  mani- 
festly for  the  conflict  to  go  on,  until  liberty  shall  become 
universal  When  we  get  this  liberty,  we  shall  have  peace."23 
The  pacifists  tried  to  press  the  peace  question  on  him  only  to 
be  told  that  "this  is  not  the  best  period  for  an  abstract  ethical 
discussion  of  the  question  of  Non-Resistance.'123 

He  still  held  that  private  scruples  need  not  prevent  the 
exercise  of  public  duty  and  that  the  accommodation  of  peace 
principles  to  the  realities  of  war  did  not  invalidate  them*  He 
asked  the  principal  of  the  Boston  Latin  School  to  excuse  his 
son  Frank  from  military  drill,  but  the  problem  of  the  draft 
he  met  with  a  piece  of  rationalization.  The  true  nonrcsistant, 
he  said,  should  refuse  to  serve  and  also  decline  to  hire  a  sub- 
stitute, though  he  might  submit  in  good  conscience  to  the 
fine  exacted  by  the  government  for  failure  to  serve.  When 
his  Quaker  friends  refused  to  accept  this  line  of  reasoning, 
he  avoided  further  argument  and  cheerfully  suggested  that 
"everyone  will  do  well,  and  best,  to  be  fully  persuaded  in 
his  own  mind."24 

This  was  the  advice  he  gave  to  his  oldest  son  George,  who 
did  not  share  his  pacifist  beliefs  and  succumbed  to  the  pa- 
triotic fervor  of  the  recruiters.  Much  to  his  disappointment 
George  accepted  a  commission  as  a  second  lieutenant  in  the 


ARMAGEDDON  AT  LAST 423 

Fifty-fourth  Massachusetts  Regiment,  the  first  Negro  outfit 
in  the  Union  Army.  Garrison  begged  George  to  reconsider, 
but  when  the  young  man  refused,  he  reluctantly  accepted 
his  decision.  When  George  marched  down  State  Street  with 
his  regiment  on  his  way  to  the  Carolinas,  Garrison  stood 
watching  at  the  corner  of  Wilson's  Lane,  where  twenty-eight 
years  earlier  a  mob  had  dragged  him  unresistingly  toward 
the  Court  House. 

I  miss  you  by  my  side  at  the  table,  and  at  the  printing-office  [he 
wrote  George],  and  cannot  get  reconciled  to  the  separation.  Yet 
I  have  nothing  but  praise  to  give  you  that  you  have  been  faithful 
to  your  highest  convictions,  and,  taking  your  life  in  your  hands, 
are  willing  to  lay  it  down  .  *  .  if  need  be,  in  the  cause  of  free- 
dom, and  for  the  suppression  of  slavery  and  the  rebellion.  True, 
I  could  have  wished  you  could  ascend  to  what  I  believe  a  higher 
plane  of  moral  heroism  and  a  nobler  method  of  self-sacrifice;  but 
as  you  are  true  to  yourself,  I  am  glad  of  your  fidelity,  and  proud 
of  your  willingness  to  run  any  risk  in  a  cause  that  is  undeniably 
just  and  good.25 

In  December,   1863,  Helen  Garrison  suffered  a  stroke 
which  left  her  partially  paralyzed  for  the  rest  of  her  life.  The 

shock  of  his  wife's  illness  nearly  prostrated  Garrison,  who 

now  that  the  children  had  grown  up  was  more  than  ever 
dependent  on  her*  He  spent  most  of  his  time  at  home  now, 
nursing  Helen,  doing  small  chores  about  the  house,  and  por- 
ing over  his  list  of  exchanges.  He  still  attended  the  conven- 
tions and  the  meetings,  but  with  less  and  less  enthusiasm*  He 
admitted  that  he  was  tired  —  tired  of  making  speeches,  tired  of 
the  constant  friction  with  younger  and  more  impetuous  aboli- 
tionists. For  the  first  time  in  his  life  he  was  willing  to  leave 
the  arguments  and  the  bickering  to  others.  As  it  happened, 
they  were  unwilling  to  accept  his  offer  of  peace* 
At  the  annual  meeting  of  the  Massachusetts  Society  in 


424 


THE  tIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 


1 864  Phillips  accused  the  government  of  a  readiness  "to  sacri- 
fice the  interest  and  honor  of  the  North  to  secure  a  sham 
peace."  Garrison  bridled.  "Now,  sir,"  he  said  patiently  to 
Phillips,  "I  do  not  believe  a  word  of  it,  and  I  cannot  vote  for 
it."  There  was  a  time,  perhaps,  when  he  had  had  little  confi- 
dence in  Lincoln,  but  since  the  Emancipation  Proclamation 
he  had  changed  his  mind.  True,  the  President  was  slow  in 
making  decisions  and  needed  spurring  on,  but  no  one  could 
really  believe  that  he  was  ready  to  make  a  sham  peace.  "This 
is  a  very  grave  charge."26  But  Phillips  had  the  votes;  Garri- 
son's amendment  to  his  resolution  was  beaten  and  the  society 
went  on  record  as  opposing  Lincoln's  administration.  From 
that  moment  Garrison  lost  interest  in  the  organization  he  had 
founded  and  began  to  concentrate  on  re-electing  Lincoln. 

As  early  as  January,  1864,  the  Liberator  was  broadcasting 
its  editor's  opinion  that  the  re-election  of  Lincoln  would  be 
the  wisest  and  safest  course.  Lincoln  had  his  faults,  but  these 
and  "a  thousand  incidental  errors  and  blunders"  might  easily 
be  excused  in  a  man  who  had  freed  the  slaves.  Besides,  the 
fewer  the  differences  among  loyal  Northerners  the  less  chance 
that  the  Democrats,  who  were  "essentially,  brutally,  persist- 
ently pro-slavery,"  would  strike  hands  with  the  rebels,27 

He  clashed  with  Phillips  a  second  rime  at  the  American 
Anti-Slavery  Society  meeting  that  spring,  when  Phillips 
charged  Lincoln  with  refusing  to  give  the  vote  to  the  Negro. 
Garrison  had  hoped  to  avoid  this  question,  which  he  called 
"a  new  issue,"  but  Phillips  insisted  that  Negro  suffrage  was 
the  final  goal  toward  which  abolitionists  were  bound  to  ad- 
vance. Once  more  Garrison's  resolutions  defending  the  Presi- 
dent were  defeated  and  his  explanations  rejected.  At  first,  he 
was  surprisingly  tolerant  of  his  friend  and  prot£g&  He  ad- 
mitted that  Phillips  was  "brilliant  and  eloquent"  and  hoped 
that  thek  disagreement  would  aot  alter  their  friendship,  yet 


ARMAGEDDON  AT  LAST  425 

the  fact  that  Phillips  now  controlled  all  that  was  left  of  his 
anti-slavery  movement  inevitably  brought  their  friendship  to 

a  breaking  point.  Henceforth  Garrison  was  convinced  of 
his  old  friend's  poor  judgment  and  overriding  ambition. 

Following  their  disagreement  in  New  York  the  two  men 
went  their  separate  ways,  Phillips  to  Cleveland  with  the  wild 

notion  of  securing  Fremont's  nomination,  Garrison  to  Balti- 
more to  attend  to  the  re-election  of  Lincoln.  In  rejecting 
Fremont,  Garrison  displayed  the  political  acumen  worthy  of 

a  ward  boss.  General  Fremont,  he  reminded  Phillips,  lacked 

popular  support.  Even  with  his  strong  anti-slavery  record, 
how  could  he  defeat  the  Copperheads?  <£lf  1  were  speaking  on 
a  moral  issue,  1  should  speak  in  a  very  different  manner  .  .  . 

for  the  man  who  stands  alone  in  a  moral  cause,  though  all  the 
world  be  against  him  if  God  be  for  him,  stands  in  a  majority, 
and  is  conqueror.  But  *when  you  come  to  politics,  that  is  an- 
other sphere.  Then  you  must  have  votes,  then  you  must  have 
men  and  money;  then  you  must  have  political  influence  and 
respectability/"28  Civil  war  had  taught  him  politics  as  the  art 
of  the  possible. 

From  Baltimore  he  went  directly  to  Washington  for  a 
meeting  with  Lincoln  at  the  White  House,  where  the  Presi- 
dent received  him  cordially  and  invited  him  to  return  the 
next  day.  Garrison  told  him  of  the  enthusiastic  Republican 
Convention  and  of  his  search  for  the  old  Baltimore  Jail,  which 
had  since  been  torn  down.  The  President  chuckled,  remark- 
ing that  times  had  certainly  changed  —  once  he  couldn't  get 
out  of  jail  and  now  he  couldn't  get  in.  Then  Lincoln  intro- 
duced him  to  his  other  guests*  "I  was  at  once  surrounded  with 
a  larger  group  of  persons  than  even  himself/'  he  wrote  to 
Helen  with  pardonable  pride.29  Chase  was  out  of  the  city, 
but  he  found  Stanton  in  his  office  and  after  an  hour's  chat 
announced  Wmself  pleased  with  the  Secretary's  "thorough- 


426  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYP  GARRISON 

going  anti-slavery  spirit."  Blair  and  Seward  he  ignored.  His 
friends  Sumner  and  Wilson  invited  him  to  sit  with  them  in 
the  Senate  and  introduced  him  to  their  Radical  colleagues, 
whom  he  would  soon  join  in  defeating  executive  reconstruc- 
tion. The  Massachusetts  Senators  even  managed  to  find  him 
a  hotel  room  in  the  crowded  city  and  were  otherwise  "ex- 
ceedingly  marked  in  their  attentions."  On  the  following  day 
he  had  a  second  meeting  with  the  President,  also  "a  very 
satisfactory  one  indeed."  "Mr.  Lincoln,"  he  began,  "I  want 
to  tell  you  that  for  every  word  I  have  ever  spoken  in  your 
favor,  I  have  spoken  ten  in  favor  of  General  Fremont  .  *  „ 
but,  Mr.  President,  from  the  hour  that  you  issued  the  Eman- 
cipation Proclamation,  and  showed  your  purpose  to  stand 
by  it,  I  have  given  you  my  hearty  support  and  confidence." 
Lincoln  spoke  of  his  plans  for  reconstruction  —  of  the  oath  of 
allegiance  and  his  promise  of  executive  recognition  to  those 
states  where  one-tenth  of  the  voters  took  the  oath  and  estab- 
lished governments  without  slavery.  He  would  need  all  the 
support  the  abolitionists  could  give  him.  Garrison  promised 
to  do  his  part.  The  President's  candor  won  him  over  com- 
pletely, and  he  returned  to  Boston  ready  for  another  campaign 
in  which  the  Liberator  would  confute  error,  rebuke  wrong, 
unmask  dissimulation,  condemn  guilt,  and  see  to  it  that  Abra- 
ham Lincoln  was  re-elected.30 

Phillips  soon  saw  that  though  he  now  controlled  both  the 
national  and  state  societies,  he  had  no  way  of  making  cither 
Johnson's  Anti-Slavery  Standard  or  the  Liberator  support 
the  cause  of  John  C.  Fremont  Both  editors  continued  to 
hymn  Lincoln's  praises  as  before.  Phillips  remonstrated  with 
Garrison  for  his  unfair  tactics.  "Of  course,  an  earnest  conver- 
sation, though  a  brief  one,  ensued  between  us,"  Garrison  re- 
ported blandly,  "in  which  I  told  him  he  had  in  every  instance 
compelled  a  fair  and  friendly  defense  of  the  President  by  his 


ARMAGEDDON  AT  LAST  427 

partisan  appeals  for  Fremont,  and  his  unjust  and  sweeping 
accusations/'  He  warned  Johnson  that  Phillips  was  bent  on 
controlling  the  Standard  and  that  there  were  "breakers  ahead," 
"I  fear  P.  has  made  up  his  mind  to  leave  us;  but  time  must 
determine.  He  is  evidently  in  a  heated  state/'81 

Indeed  Phillips  was  so  irate  that  he  sent  off  instructions  to 
Henry  Bowditch,  the  treasurer  of  the  national  society,  not 
to  pay  a  cent  more  out  of  the  coffers  to  the  Standard,  Garri- 
son intervened  and  called  a  meeting  of  the  Executive  Com- 
mittee. Phillips  claimed  that  he  had  committed  the  society  to 
Fremont  not  once  but  three  times  and  that  the  Standard 
ought  to  conform  to  its  decision.  "I  fear  he  may  take  with 
him  a  majority  of  the  Executive  Committee,"  Garrison  wrote 
wistfully,  "but  whether  the  majority  be  on  one  side  or  the 
other,  it  looks  as  if  we  are  to  be  rent  asunder,  and  our  organ- 
ized operations  brought  to  an  immediate  close."82  The  dis- 
solution of  the  anti-slavery  organization,  however,  awaited 
the  end  of  the  war. 

As  a  campaign  sheet  for  Lincoln  the  Liberator  had  few 
peers.  Garrison  imperturbably  announced  that  "if  to  give  the 
weight  of  our  sympathy  and  influence  to  Mr*  Lincoln's  re- 
election makes  us  recreant  to  anti-slavery  principles,"  then 
he  was  pro-slavery.  He  accused  Fremont  of  pursuing  a  "dis- 
tracting course"  and  continually  urged  him  to  step  aside.  He 
minimized  the  administration's  failings  and  asked  his  readers 
to  take  a  "telescopic"  rather  than  a  "microscopic"  view  of 
the  war,  and  "instead  of  dwelling  upon  and  magnifying  to 
huge  dimensions  those  incidental  errors  and  outrages  which 
are  inevitable  in  the  midst  of  such  awful  civil  war,  and  which 
are  sure  to  be  corrected,  fix  your  gaze  upon  those  sublime 
and  glorious  acts  of  President  Lincoln's  administration,  where- 
by slavery  has  received  its  death  warrant,  and  the  haughty 
Slave  Power  been  laid  low  in  the  dust*"M  He  singled  out  the 


428  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

New  York  newspapers  —  the  World,  News,  Express,  and 
Journal  of  Commerce  —  as  "treasonable  journals"  worthy  of 
suppression.  In  an  editorial  entitled  "Where  Lies  the  Danger," 
on  August  19,  1864,  he  demanded  vigorous  action  against 
any  citizen  suspected  of  harboring  "treasonable  designs."  "A 
timid,  half-way  policy  will  not  discourage  but  rather  em- 
bolden and  stimulate  sedition.  Open-mouthed  conspirators, 
who  possess  any  influence,  should  be  promptly  arrested;  and 
every  traitorous  gathering  should  be  summarily  dispersed  by 
the  strong  arm  of  military  authority.  ...  By  their  own  Con- 
stitution THE  PEOPLE  have  provided  for  the  exercise  of  this 
summary  power  in  times  like  these,  as  a  matter  of  self-preser- 
vation; and,  unless  they  have  ceased  to  believe  in  the  right  of 
expediency  of  upholding  the  Constitution,  they  will  stand 
by  its  enforcement  to  the  extremest  needs."34  Not  since  the 
campaign  of  1828  had  he  engaged  in  such  free-wheeling  parti- 
san journalism,  and  not  since  the  Federalist  editorial  experi- 
ments of  his  youth  had  the  profile  of  his  authoritarian  per- 
sonality seemed  so  sharp. 

In  September  the  Fremont  boom  collapsed  and  Sherman's 
march  to  the  sea  disposed  of  McClellan  and  the  Chicago 
Platform.  Fremont  withdrew  from  the  race,  thus  saving  him- 
self, Garrison  wrote,  "from  the  shame  and  calamity  of  a 
copperhead  triumph."  Once  Lincoln  was  safely  elected  by  a 
majority  of  four  hundred  thousand,  Garrison  anticipated  a 
quick  end  to  the  war.  With  the  inverse  logic  of  the  innocent 
he  read  Lincoln's  re-election  as  a  mandate  for  the  Republican 
Radicals,  as  if  totally  unaware  of  the  power  struggle  already 
being  waged  in  Washington  for  the  control  of  the  govern- 
ment. In  fact,  his  own  ideas  on  reconstruction  reflected  the 
mood  of  Congress  rather  than  the  Presidential  temper.  He 
agreed  that  there  must  be  no  recognition  of  the  rebel  states 
as  legal  entities.  They  were  in  a  state  of  "misrule,  anarchy, 


ARMAGEDDON  AT  LAST  429 

chaos"  out  of  which  new  constitutional  status  would  be 
evolved  by  Congress,  which  alone  had  the  power  to  determine 
their  existence.  No  amnesty  of  Lincoln's  could  transform 
rebellious  states  into  loyal  ones.  It  was  for  Congress  to  decide 
upon  the  necessary  military  control,  direct  the  occupation, 
and  determine  the  time  and  conditions  of  re-entry  into  the 
Union.  "No  other  course  can  give  repose  or  security,  or 
make  atonement  for  the  horrible  excesses  of  those  revolted 
portions  of  the  country."85 

While  his  general  views  on  the  treatment  of  the  rebels 
coincided  with  those  of  the  Congressional  Radicals,  his  ideas 
on  rehabilitating  the  Negro  were  hazy  and  confused.  Like 
Lincoln,  he  knew  that  emancipation  would  find  the  slaves 
where  slavery  had  left  them,  in  need  of  Northern  help;  and 
he  saw  an  immense  field  in  the  South  for  philanthropic  and 
missionary  effort.  As  the  various  freedmen's  organizations 
emerged  in  the  last  year  of  the  war,  he  hailed  them  as  "trust- 
worthy mediums"  of  restoration,  but  of  their  scope  and  func- 
tion, the  nature  of  their  aims  he  knew  next  to  nothing.  The 
end  of  the  war  found  him  with  only  a  general  sympathy  for 
the  Negroes  overshadowed  by  his  towering  hatred  of  their 
former  masters. 

On  April  8,  1865,  the  federal  steamship  Arago  cleared  New 
York  Harbor  for  Charleston,  South  Carolina.  On  board  were 
Garrison  and  George  Thompson  along  with  General  Robert 
Anderson,  Henry  Wilson,  the  Henry  Ward  Beechers,  and 
a  boatful  of  political  generals  and  minor  government  officials. 
They  were  on  their  way  to  Fort  Sumter  to  watch  General 
Anderson  raise  the  flag  over  the  fort  he  had  been  forced  to 
surrender  four  years  ago.  George  Garrison  had  been  granted 
a  furlough  to  join  his  father,  who  was  anxious  for  the  first 
glimpse  of  his  son  in  nearly  a  year, 

The  voyage  through  the  calm  seas  of  a  warm  spring  proved 


430  THE  LIBERATOR:   WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

a  pleasant  diversion  from  the  war.  Garrison  wrote  daily  to 
his  invalid  wife  describing  in  detail  his  triumphal  visit  to  the 
home  of  rebeldom.  The  invaders  stopped  for  a  short  while  in 
once  beautiful  Savannah,  now  "a  city  of  mingled  gentility 
and  squalor."  Charleston  Harbor  was  crowded  with  masts 
flying  the  Union  flag.  Before  the  ceremonies  he  traveled  out 
to  Mitchelville,  the  first  self-governing  town  of  frccdmcn  in 
the  South.  The  inhabitants  welcomed  him  rapturously,  packed 
the  local  church  to  hear  him  talk,  and  serenaded  him  with 
"The  Day  of  Jubilee"  as  he  drove  off.  To  ensure  the  proper 
spirit  of  jubilation  at  the  flag-raising  ceremony  itself,  a  Union 
naval  captain  had  collected  over  two  thousand  newly  eman- 
cipated slaves  of  all  ages  and  sizes  whose  joy  at  being  guests 
of  the  government  was  unbounded.  The  ceremonies  went  off 
in  stirring  fashion:  Anderson  raised  his  flag  and  Bccchcr's 
speech  was  properly  pontifical.  In  the  evening  a  banquet  was 
held  at  the  Charleston  Hotel  at  which  Garrison  commented 
solemnly  on  South  Carolina's  fall  from  grace.  "She  has  been 
brought  down  from  her  pride  of  place.  The  chalice  was  put 
to  her  lips,  and  she  drank  it  to  the  dregs."  He  said  that  he  had 
never  been  the  enemy  of  the  South,  only  a  friend  who  had 
tried  to  save  her  from  this  "great  retribution  demanded  in 
the  name  of  the  living  God."  To  the  victorious  Union  and 
loyal  Southerners  he  offered  the  toast  which  he  called  the 
governing  passion  of  his  soul:  "Liberty  for  each,  for  all,  and 
for  ever."  Before  he  retired  for  the  night  he  visited  the  office 
of  the  Charleston  Courier,  the  old  antagonist  of  the  Liberator  > 
where  he  picked  up  the  type  stick  and  set  a  paragraph  of 
Beecher's  speech.  Before  him  on  the  compositor's  slab  lay 
tangible  proof  of  his  triumph. 

The  next  day  he  stopped  at  the  tiny  cemetery  beside  St. 
Philip's  Church,  where  he  meditated  at  the  grave  of  Calhoun 
and  pronounced  the  death  verdict  on  slavery,  "Down  to  a 


ARMAGEDDON  AT  LAST 43 1 

deeper  grave  than  this  slavery  has  gone,  and  for  It  there  is 
no  resurrection."  Then  from  graveyard  musings  to  a  huge 
gathering  of  the  freedmcn  in  Zion's  Church  to  listen  to  end- 
less eulogies  and  accept  bouquets  of  spring  flowers.  Just  be- 
fore he  rose  to  speak  three  little  girls  approached  him  and 
placed  in  his  lap  a  floral  wreath.  He  explained  to  the  congre- 
gation the  purpose  of  his  visit  to  Charleston  and  his  reasons 
for  undertaking  the  cause  of  their  freedom.  "It  was  not  on 
account  of  your  complexion  or  race,  as  a  people,  that  I  es- 
poused your  cause,  but  because  you  were  children  of  a 
common  Father,  created  in  the  same  divine  image,  having  the 
same  inalienable  rights,  and  as  much  entitled  to  liberty  as  the 
proudest  slaveholder  that  ever  walked  the  earth."  The  Union, 
he  promised  them,  would  stand  by  them  to  establish  their 
freedom  —  "the  Government  has  its  hold  upon  the  throat  of 
the  monster  Slavery,  and  is  strangling  the  life  out  of  it/' 

Whatever  his  audience  in  Zion's  Church  thought,  back  in 
Boston  there  were  those  of  his  colleagues  who  doubted  that 
the  government  would  give  the  Negro  his  rights.  The  assassi- 
nation of  Lincoln  seemed  to  them  to  presage  a  tragic  retreat 
from  the  ideals  of  the  war,  and  they  determined  to  wrest  full 
control  of  the  old  American  Anti-Slavery  Society  before 
Garrison  disbanded  it  and  to  continue  the  fight  to  secure  for 
the  Negro  the  vote.  They  were  waiting  for  him  when  he  re- 
turned from  Charleston* 

The  dispute  at  the  annual  meeting  of  the  American  Anti- 
Slavery  Society  inevitably  turned  on  the  issue  of  Negro 
suffrage.  Garrison  knew  that  he  lacked  the  votes  to  dissolve 
the  society,  but  with  a  flash  of  the  old  combative  spirit  he 
threw  down  the  gauntlet  by  moving  to  disband.  "The  point 
is  here,"  he  explained.  "We  organized  expressly  for  the  aboli- 
tion of  slavery;  we  called  our  Society  an  AntMSUwery  Society. 
The  other  work  (Negro  suffrage)  was  incidental  Now,  I 


432  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  OARMSQN 

believe,  slavery  is  abolished  in  this  country,  abolished  consti- 
tutionally, abolished  by  a  decree  of  this  nation,  never,  never 
to  be  reversed,  and,  therefore,  that  it  is  ludicrous  for  us,  a 
mere  handful  of  people  with  little  means,  with  no  agents  in 
the  field,  no  longer  separate,  and  swallowed  up  in  the  great 
ocean  of  popular  feeling  against  slavery,  to  assume  that  we 
are  of  special  importance,  and  that  we  ought  not  to  dissolve 
it/'36  Since  the  government  would  necessarily  guarantee  the 
freedmen  their  civil  liberties  by  force  of  arms,  the  abolition- 
ists were  now  superfluous. 

Phillips  proceeded  to  demolish  Garrison's  argument.  The 
Thirteenth  Amendment  had  not  yet  been  ratified,  lie  pointed 
out,  and  the  South  remained  unconverted,  "You  cannot  kill 
off  all  the  white  men  who  cherish  a  hatred  toward  democratic 
institutions.  You  can  only  flank  them,  as  Grant  flanked  Lee  — 
flank  them  by  democratic  elements  —  Yankee  commerce, 
black  suffrage,  divided  lands."  Slavery  was  stunned  perhaps, 
but  not  dead.  "Prejudice  is  rife.  All  over  the  country,  the 
colored  man  is  a  Pariah." 

PHILLIPS:  Now,  friends,  my  abolitionism,  when  I  pledged  my 
faith  to  that  Declaration  of  Sentiments  and  Constitution  of  the 
American  Anti-Slavery  Society,  was,  'Absolute  equality  before 
the  law;  absolute  civil  equality/  and  I  never  shall  leave  the 
Negro  until,  so  far  as  God  gives  me  the  power  to  do  so,  1 
achieve  it. 

GARRISON:  —  Who  proposes  to  do  so?  . . .  I  think  I  am  competent 
to  interpret  the  language  of  the  Declaration  of  Sentiments  [of 
1835]  if  any  man  living  be.  I  was  the  author  of  it;  and  unless 
I  have  grown  demented,  I  ought  to  know  what  I  meant,  and 
what  this  Society  meant  in  using  that  language.  This  Society 
is  The  American  Anti-Slavery  Society,*  That  was  the  object 
The  thought  never  entered  my  mind  then,  nor  has  it  at  any 
time  since,  that  when  slavery  had  received  its  death  wouad* 


ARMAGEDDON  AT  LAST  433 

there  would  be  any  disposition  or  occasion  to  continue  the 
Anti-Slavery  Society  a  moment  longer  .  .  . 

PHILLIPS;  —  I  do  not  know  what  Mr.  Garrison  meant  when  he 
wrote  the  Declaration  of  Sentiments,  and  the  Constitution  of 
the  American  Anti-Slavery  Society  — 

GARRISON:  —  I  do. 

PHILLIPS:  —  Of  course  he  docs,  and  his  construction  Is  sufficient 
for  his  guidance,  but  not  for  mine  or  yours. 

When  Pillsbury  and  Foster  entered  the  fray,  personal  ani- 
mosities flared.  Foster  regretted  that  the  "old"  and  "tired" 
members  felt  disposed  to  quit*  Garrison  accused  Phillips  o£ 
making  "unjust  and  unfounded  allegations."  George  Thomp- 
son used  the  old  Garrisonian  trick  of  citing  earlier  remarks  of 
Phillips  and  appealed  "from  Phillips  drunk  to  Phillips  sober." 
Garrison  recalled  that  in  1861  Phillips  said  that  slavery  had 
been  dealt  its  deathblow.  "Can  I  not  grow  wiser?"  Phillips 
asked. 

Garrison's  views  on  the  question  of  Negro  suffrage  had 
grown  steadily  more  conservative.  Personal  freedom  was  one 
thing,  he  now  felt,  the  vote  another.  He  granted  that  ia  the 
course  of  their  fight  the  abolitionists  had  often  raraed  aside 
to  agitate  for  enfranchisement  of  free  Negroes  in  various 
parts  of  the  North,  but  he  emphatically  denied  that  the  ballot 
was  ever  an  essential  part  of  their  program.  "In  enumerating 
the  grievances  under  which  the  slaves  of  the  South  have  been 
crushed  so  long,  no  abolitionist  has  ever  alluded  to  their 
exclusion  from  the  ballot-box  as  in  that  category."  Then  what 
was  the  sense  of  freeing  the  slave?  Phillips  wanted  to  know. 
Garrison's  editorial  reply  summarised  his  interpretation  of  the 
history  of  the  anti-slavery  crusade  and,  in  a  larger  sense,  his 
whole  conservative  philosophy.  "Of  course,  there  was  no  dif- 


434         THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

ference  of  opinion  as  to  the  fact,  that,  inasmuch  as  slavery 
was  the  extinction  of  every  natural  right,  so  its  abolition 
would  open  the  way  for  ultimate  social,  civil  and  political 
equality;  but  this  through  industrial  and  educational  develop- 
ment and  not  by  any  arbitrary  mandate."  Simply  because 
ignorant  white  men  were  allowed  to  vote  there  was  no  reason 
to  enfranchise  millions  of  ignorant  blacks.  When  in  history 
had  emancipation  ever  been  accompanied  by  a  recognition  of 
political  equality? 

Chattels  personal  may  be  instantly  translated  from  the  auction- 
block  into  freemen;  but  when  were  they  ever  taken  at  the  same 
time  to  the  ballot-box,  and  invested  with  all  political  rights  and 
immunities?  According  to  the  laws  of  development  and  progress, 
it  is  not  practicable.  .  .  .  Nor,  if  the  freed  blacks  were  admitted 
to  the  polls  by  Presidential  fiat,  do  I  see  any  permanent  advantage 
likely  to  be  secured  by  it;  for  submitted  to  as  a  necessity  at  the 
outset,  as  soon  as  the  State  was  organized  and  left  to  manage  its 
own  affairs,  the  white  population  with  their  superior  intelligence, 
wealth,  and  power,  would  unquestionably  alter  the  franchise  in 
accordance  with  their  prejudices,  and  exclude  those  thus  sum- 
marily brought  to  the  polls.  Coercion  would  gain  nothing.  In 
other  words  .  ,  ,  universal  suffrage  will  be  hard  to  win  and  to 
hold  without  a  general  preparation  of  feeling  and  sentiment*  But 
it  will  come  .  .  .  yet  only  by  a  struggle  on  the  part  of  the  rf&- 
francbised,  and  a  growing  conviction  of  its  justice  'in  the  good 
time  coming.'  With  the  abolition  of  slavery  in  the  South  preju- 
dice or  *colorphobia,'  the  natural  product  of  the  system,  will 
naturally  disappear.87 

Here  was  the  conservative  message  he  had  spent  his  whole 
life  preaching  —  slavery  was  a  moral  rather  than  a  political 
issue,  immediate  emancipation  meant  gradual  rehabilitation, 
not  social  revolution. 

He  was  willing  to  put  his  belief  in  moral  reform  to  the 


ARMAGEDDON  AT  LAST  435 

test  by  moving  the  dissolution  of  the  society  and  watched 
sadly  as  one  by  one  the  members  voted  against  him*38  Once 
again  as  it  had  for  twenty-two  years,  the  Nominating  Com- 
mittee reported  his  name  for  re-election  as  President.  Gravely 
he  declined*  Phillips  was  elected  in  his  place  and  submitted 
a  tribute  to  the  retiring  president  in  the  form  of  a  resolution 
which  was  adopted  with  a  rising  vote.  In  his  farewell  speech 
he  accepted  Phillips's  eulogy  gracefully  and  mocked  the 
funereal  mood  of  the  members,  calling  on  them  to  celebrate 
the  day  of  jubilee,  the  resurrection  from  the  dead. 

Slavery  is  in  its  grave,  and  there  is  no  power  in  this  nation  that 
can  ever  bring  it  back.  1  thank  you,  beloved  friends,  who  have  for 
so  many  years  done  me  the  honor  to  make  me  the  President  of 
the  American  Anti-Slavery  Society,  I  never  should  have  accepted 
that  post  if  it  had  been  a  popular  one.  I  took  it  because  it  was 
unpopular;  because  we,  as  a  body,  were  everywhere  denounced, 
proscribed,  outlawed.  To-day,  it  is  popular  to  be  President  of  the 
American  Anti-Slavery  Society.  Hence  my  connection  with  it 
terminates  here  and  now,  both  as  a  member  and  as  its  presiding 
officer,  I  bid  you  an  affectionate  adieu* 

If  it  was  popular  to  be  an  abolitionist  in  the  spring  of  1865, 

it  was  especially  satisfying  to  be  the  retired  leader  of  a  vindi- 
cated and  now  glorious  cause.  In  stepping  down  Garrison 
simply  abandoned  the  dusty  forum  of  the  abolitionists  for 
the  legislative  halls  of  the  Republican  Party,  The  tragedy  was 
that  to  the  citizens  of  the  North  who  were  finally  ready  to 
listen  to  an  anti-slavery  hero  he  had  nothing  to  say. 


19 
Reconstruction  and  Redemption 


FEAR  MIDNIGHT  on  December  29,  1865,  Garrison  sat  at 
^  Jfiis  office  desk  hurriedly  composing  his  "Valedictory" 
and  handing  each  paragraph  as  he  finished  it  to  the  printers 
who  waited  at  his  elbow.  This  was  the  way  he  had  worked  for 
thirty-five  years,  dashing  off  editorials  at  the  last  minute  and 
inserting  them  just  before  the  paper  went  to  press*  Now  he 
was  putting  the  Liberator  to  bed  for  the  last  time.  Having 
finished,  he  laid  down  his  pen,  walked  to  the  composing 
bench,  set  the  final  paragraph  himself  and  locked  it  in*  Then, 
saying  goodnight  to  the  printers,  he  went  home  to  Helen. 

For  a  valedictory  his  editorial  was  neither  sentimental  nor 
self-righteous.  He  sounded  no  trumpets,  he  said,  made  no 
parades.  "The  object  for  which  the  Liberator  was  commenced 
—  the  extermination  of  chattel  slavery  ~~  having  been  glori- 
ously consummated,  it  seems  to  me  especially  appropriate  to 
let  its  existence  cover  the  historical  period  of  the  great  straggle; 
leaving  what  remains  to  be  done  to  complete  the  work  of 
emancipation  to  other  instrumentalities  (of  which  1  hope  to 
avail  myself),  under  new  auspices,  with  more  abundant 
means,  and  with  millions  instead  of  hundreds/*1 

Leaving  the  freedmen  to  millions,  however,  meant  abandon- 
ing them  to  a  Northern  majority  who  had  no  clear  sense  of 
purpose.  So  Phillips  argued  when  he  refused  to  disband  the 


RECONSTRUCTION  AND  REDEMPTION  437 

American  Anti-Slavery  Society  or  close  down  the  Standard. 
Edmund  Quincy,  Henry  Wright  and  Samuel  May,  Jr.,  re- 
tired from  the  society  with  Garrison.  The  new  Executive 
Committee  refused  to  vote  a  resolution  of  thanks  to  the  retir- 
ing editors  of  the  Standard,  Johnson  and  Quincy;  and  when 
it  finally  made  a  reluctant  acknowledgment  of  their  services, 
they  refused  to  accept  it.  Hostility  between  Phillips  and  Garri- 
son continued  to  mount.  Garrison  accused  Phillips  of  ingrati- 
tude, Quincy  openly  snubbed  him,  and  the  old  cordiality  of 
the  clique  died.  "We  don't  see  any  of  them,"  Ann  PhilUps 
said  of  the  Garrison  family  now,  "for  they  feel  very  unkindly 
towards  us/'2  Phillips  admitted  sadly  that  half  the  men  he 
had  worked  with  for  thirty  years  would  not  speak  to  him 
on  the  street. 

Garrison  was  irked  by  Phillips's  reminder  that  the  work  of 
rehabilitating  the  Negro  had  just  begun  and  bridled  at  his 
"unjust  imputations  upon  his  old  associates."  As  for  the 
remnants  of  the  society  he  himself  had  founded,  "of  course, 
as  the  whole  thing  is  a  farce,  I  care  nothing  for  it-"s  He  wrote 
a  long  and  virtriolic  letter  to  the  Independent^  the  religious 
weekly  edited  by  Theodore  Tilton  in  New  York,  denounc- 
ing Phillips  as  an  opportunist  who  sought  to  make  political 
capital  out  of  the  black  man.  Undoubtedly  PhilHps  would 
take  the  letter  as  a  "mortal  affront,"  he  told  Johnson.  "But 
I  can  stand  anything  but  an  imputation  upon  my  fidelity  to 
the  colored  race;  and  I  know  not  why  he  should  be  allowed 
to  hold  us  all  up  to  view  as  hauling  down  our  flag,  and  beat- 
ing a  hasty  retreat,  without  being  strongly  rebuked  for  it*"4 
Diehard  supporters  of  Phillips  declared  that  for  the  last  two 
years  they  had  thrown  the  Liberator  away  in  disgust.  What 
more  proof,  he  asked  Helen,  was  needed  of  the  evil  influence 
wrought  by  Phillips?  Thus  Garrisonism  died  as  it  had  been 
born,  in  the  midst  of  recrimination  and  rancor. 


438  THE  LIBERATOR:  WILLIAM  LLOYD  GARRISON 

In  1864  Garrison  had  moved  his  family  from  Dix  Place  to 
a  rambling  frame  house  in  Roxbury.  Set  high  above  the  road 
on  ledges  and  surrounded  by  an  orchard,  his  new  home  was 
only  a  half-hour  from  the  city  but  secluded  enough  to  be  a 
little  lonely  now  that  the  children  had  grown  up  and  left 
home.  After  a  Harvard  education  financed  by  Phillips,  his 
son  Wendell  married  Miller  McKim's  daughter  Lucy  and 
joined  E.  L.  Godkin  on  the  Nation.  Fanny  found  her  match 
in  the  aggressive  Henry  VUlard  and  set  out  to  help  him  carve 
his  fortune  out  of  American  railroads.  The  older  boys,  Wil- 
liam and  George,  had  gone  into  business  after  the  war.  Young 
Frank,  whose  adolescent  aimlessness  disturbed  his  father, 
drifted  between  the  Villard  home  and  Roxbury.  Helen, 
though  confined  to  the  house,  was  as  cheerful  and  uncom- 
plaining as  ever,  but  without  his  family  the  big,  high-ccilinged 
rooms  seemed  strangely  empty.  "Harry  will  forgive  me  if, 
occasionally,  I  involuntarily  sigh  to  think  that  you  have  been 
taken  away  from  our  household,"  he  wrote  to  Fanny,  "of 
which  you  were  its  light  and  joy;  yet  to  wish  it  otherwise 
were  selfish  indeed."6  Most  of  his  time  now  he  spent  in  his 
study  rummaging  through  old  newspapers  and  clipping  arti- 
cles for  his  anti-slavery  history* 

His  Republican  prejudices  were  strengthened  by  a  visit  to 
Washington  in  February,  1866,  where  he  saw  Sumner  and 
Wilson  again  and  discussed  Andrew  Johnson's  faults  with 
Ben  Wade  and  Thad  Stevens,  He  attended  the  debates  over 
the  President's  veto  of  the  Freedmen's  Bill  and  interviewed 
General  Oliver  O.  Howard,  who  asked  his  help  in  establish- 
ing the  Freedmen's  Bureau.  All  of  his  acquaintances  ridiculed 
Johnson  and  spoke  of  the  need  for  new  congressional  leader- 
ship to  counter  his  despotic  policies.  Garrison  gave  two  ad- 
dresses in  Washington,  both  to  small  audiences,  in  which  he 
added  his  own  warnings  of  executive  tyranny.  On  his  way 


RECONSTRUCTION   AND  REDEMPTION 439 

home  he  stopped  with  Theodore  Tllton  in  Brooklyn,  where 
he  lectured  at  the  Academy  of  Music.  At  the  end  of  his 
speech  he  used  some  of  the  new  information  gleaned  from 
the  Radicals  to  inform  his  audience  of  an  impending  revolution 
which  Johnson  was  plotting  with  the  aid  of  the  Democratic 
Party.  "What  I  said  was  quite  impromptu,"  he  wrote  to 
Fanny,  "but  I  am  more  and  more  convinced  that  Pres.  John- 
son will  attempt  a  coup  d'etat  against  Congress  by  the  time 
summer  is  upon  us*  He  will  do  it  'constitutionally'  and  *to 
preserve  the  Union'  and  put  down  Northern  'conspirators/ 
The  elements  of  violence  are  gathering  for  the  onslaught. 
Tell  Harry  his  15,000  loyal  men  in  Washington  will  be 
needed."6  Home  once  more  in  Roxbury,  he  decided  to  uphold 
the  Republicans  in  their  fight  against  executive  usurpation. 

He  missed  the  editorial  routine  and  was  often  at  a  loss  to 
fill  the  time,  "I  am,  as  yet,  uncertain  what  to  do,"  he  con- 
fided to  Henry  Wright.  "But  I  must  try  to  find  some  em- 
ployment soon,  as  my  candle  is  burning  at  both  ends."7  He 
told  Wendell  that  the  "price  of  family  living,"  which  was 
"enormous,"  would  soon  force  him  to  seek  steady  employ- 
ment. For  this  and  other  reasons  he  began  to  consider  writing 
a  multivolumc  history  of  anti-slavery.  His  family  and  friends 
urged  him  to  begin  work  right  away,  and  Ticknor  &  Fields 
promised  to  underwrite  it  Fanny,  who  knew  how  much  her 
father  missed  the  Liberator ?  suggested  that  he  sign  a  contract